Typical Experience of a First-Time Supervisor

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision.

Sections of This Topic Include

:Rarely have adequate training
Are often intimidated when faced with enforcing a wide range of policies and procedures
Rarely have enough time
Often feel very alone
Are sometimes overwhelmed and stressed out
Therefore, support and development are critical to new supervisors
Top 8 Things Your Staff Hates About You

Also see
Related Library Topics

Also See the Library’s Blogs Related to Supervision

In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Supervision. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog.

Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Training and Development Blog

(This page is referenced from Basic Overview of Supervision.)


Rarely Have Adequate Training

Often, employees are promoted to supervision because of their strong technical expertise -- expertise in building a product or providing a service. Suddenly, the new supervisor is now charged with a whole new range of responsibilities, many of which have little to do with technical expertise.

Managers often deal with great deal of paperwork and people. Although paperwork is usually the most tedious, it's often the most predictable. People aren't predictable. They have moods, illnesses, career expectations, crises in their family lives, etc. The supervisor's technical expertise is often useless when it comes to supervising people.

Sometimes Intimidated by Wide Range of Policies and Procedures

The new supervisor is suddenly faced with a wide range of rules and regulations -- each of which the supervisor is responsible to enforce. The supervisor is responsible for signing time cards, authorizing overtime, granting compensation time, dealing with performance problems, developing job descriptions, following hiring procedures, dealing with grievances, conforming to a complicated pay system, and the list goes on. It can be quite difficult to conform to today's wide range of employee laws, rules and regulations -- and at the same time, produce a product or service.

New Supervisors Rarely Have Enough Time

No matter how many courses or degrees a new supervisor has completed, they're often surprised that management activities are so hectic and demanding. No matter how thorough the planning, managers rarely get to spend much time on any one activity. The role of most managers, whether new supervisors or executives, is interspersed with frequent interruptions. Any surprise in the work or lives of employees is a sudden demand on supervisors.

New supervisors often expect to have complete knowledge of everything that goes on in their group. They don't want to encounter any surprises. So they spend more time reading, thinking, planning, communicating with employees -- new supervisors often spend 60 hours a week on the job. Still, they don't feel they have enough time to do the job right.

New Supervisors Often Feel Very Alone

Each manager has a unique role in the organization. Each organization is unique. Usually there are no clear procedures for dealing with the numerous challenges that suddenly face management. Ultimately, it's up to each manager to get through the day. Faced with a great deal of pressure, little time and continuing demands from other people, the new supervisor can feel quite alone.

The supervisor is responsible to be an advocate for the organization and an advocate for the employee. For example, if the organization implements an unpopular new policy, the supervisor is often responsible to communicate and justify that new policy to the employee. In this case, management expects the supervisor to present and support the new policy, and the employee vents his or her frustration to the supervisor. However, if the supervisor wants to promote the employee or present some other reward, he or she is now representing the employee's case to the rest of management. The supervisor is often alone, stuck in the middle.

The new supervisor wants to come across as having deserved their promotion, as being in control of the situation. It's difficult to seek help from others in the organization. Even when there is someone there to talk to, it's difficult to fully explain the situation -- the new supervisor sometimes doesn't know how things got so hectic and confusing.

New Supervisors Often Feel Overwhelmed, Stressed Out

The new supervisor is responsible, often for the first time, for the activities of another employee. The supervisor must ensure the employee knows his or her job, has the resources to do the job and does the job as effectively as possible.

Until a new supervisor develops a "feeling for the territory", they often deal with the stresses of supervision by working harder, rather than smarter. They miss the comfort and predictability of their previous job.

The stress and loneliness in the role of new supervisor can bring out the worst in a person. If they deal with stress by retreating, they'll retreat to their offices and close the door. If they deal with frustration, they'll become angry and unreasonable with their employees. If they are used to getting strong praise and high grades, they'll work harder and harder until their jobs become their lives.

Support and Development Are Critical for New Supervisors

Courses in supervision, delegation, time management, stress management, etc., are not enough. New supervisors need ongoing coaching and support. They need someone whom they can confide in. Ideally, they have a mentor in the organization who remembers what it's like to be a first-time supervisor, someone who makes themselves available.

If the experience of first-time supervision is successful -- it's challenging, but fulfilling -- the supervisor goes on to become a progressive, supportive manager.

Return to Basic Overview of Supervision

Learn More in the Library's Blogs Related to this Topic

In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to this topic. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

Library's Human Resources Blog
Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Supervision Blog
Library's Team Performance Blog


Submit a link


For the Category of Supervision:

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books

General Information About Supervising Other Individuals

Leadership and Supervision in Business - Book Cover Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Provides step-by-step, highly practical guidelines to recruit, utilize and evaluate the best employees for your business. Includes guidelines to effectively lead yourself (as Board member or employee), other individuals, groups and organizations. Includes guidelines to avoid burnout -- a very common problem among employees of small businesses. Many materials in this Library's topic about staffing are adapted from this book.
Leadership and Supervision With Nonprofit Staff - Book Cover Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision With Nonprofit Staff
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Provides step-by-step, highly practical guidelines to recruit, utilize and evaluate the best staff members for your nonprofit. Includes guidelines to effectively lead yourself (as Board member or staff member), other individuals, groups and organizations. Includes guidelines to avoid burnout -- a very common problem among nonprofit staff. Many materials in this Library's topic about staffing are adapted from this book.

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Also See

Human Resources -- Recommended Books

Leadership -- Recommended Books

Management -- Recommended Books

Personal Development -- Related Books

Training and Development -- Recommended Books

Facilitation and Teams -- Related Books






Find a Topic