Disastrous Mistakes Supervisors Make

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By Dave Tate, CPA, Esq. - The following 9 Disastrous Mistakes New Supervisors Make is from Ohio-CPA.com. It is well worth reviewing by all supervisors, not just new ones. Although I am in California, the issues and situations are similar. Each of the 9 points caused me to cringe at the thought of possible litigation liability. Training for supervisors who are in these positions would be suggested. I have also added a few of my comments below, and you can find some California employer workplace materials on my website.

Dave Tate


There are few times in business as treacherous as the first few months for new supervisors. They have new-found power and are eager to do the right thing - but they don't know what it is.

Sometimes they do the wrong thing, because they think they have to do something, and sometimes they do nothing when it's critical to do something.

Nine typical types of trouble new supervisors get themselves into:

1. Hiring

Hiring gets to be second nature after a while, but it's a tricky matter at first. Overeager new supervisors think they should find out all they can about the candidate, but don't realize that many questions are off limits-questions about race, religion, disability, and marital and family status, among others.

Furthermore, since they have no plan, they have a "chat" instead of an interview, feeling good, but learning little of use. And then they make "unfortunate" (read legally actionable) remarks, like promises about a long career.

This is a minefield. Supervisors really need some training. Better yet, the business should hire an experienced HR professional.

2. Supervisor role vs. former co-workers

When the buddies of last week are suddenly "subordinates," that can make for a difficult transition. What to do if they won't follow orders? How to discipline them? How to establish the new roles? These are all questions needing answers.

3. Discipline

Administering discipline takes a little perspective, and new supervisors don't have much. They are likely to go too hard or too easy, or-just as bad-to be inconsistent.

Use a progressive discipline system where the level of punishment or discipline increases if the inappropriate behavior continues. Of course, in some situations stern discipline and even employment termination can be warranted for a serious first time wrongdoing.

4. Requests for time off

Requests for vacation, FMLA, and similar leaves are hard to handle even for seasoned managers. Who's eligible for what? When? What are the protocols? It's easy to mess this one up.

Get training.

5. Delegation

It's often hard for new supervisor to let go. If they have been hands-on types before their promotion, they may especially have trouble stepping back.

6. Documentation

"Document, document, document" goes the old saw, but new supervisors don't know when and how. Often they just don't do it at all.

Yes, document. But you had also better know what and how to write.

7. Retaliation
Unfortunately, retaliation is one of the most natural urges, yet it's one of the most dangerous from a legal standpoint. What will your new supervisor do if a complaint is filed against him or her?

You cannot retaliate. The business must have and enforce a "no retaliation" policy. Similarly, the business must have a "no discrimination" and "no harassment" policy.

8. Answering Without Knowing the Answer

New supervisors think they're supposed to have all the answers(experienced supervisors have learned that they don't) and often blurt out an answer that they later regret.

Points 8 and 9 are similar. Provide supervisors with training, and/or hire an HR professional.

9. Toughing It Out and Not Asking for Help

Many new leaders have the impression that asking for help will show weakness, so they choose to go it alone to prove their mettle. Not good.

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