View Full Version : Is there anyone on here who LIKES being a supervisor??

2011-Sep-26, 07:48 PM
After a long, halcyon period of just being plain, old regular staff, I've been told I'm 'acting supervisor' for an indefinite period of time, with all the grief and ** that this entails. I'm so depressed I can barely move. Is there anybody on this board who actually likes being 'da boss'? If so, can you give me some pointers as to how to get through the coming weeks, months, or, god help me, years without 1) going completely insane; 2) quitting outright; or 3) becoming a complete witch that everybody loves to hate?

2011-Sep-26, 08:40 PM
I supervised 50 engineering staff once and ended up having a nervous breakdown. Good Luck with that. :)

2011-Sep-26, 08:56 PM
At a prior job, the company I worked for was soo bass-ackwards that the same thing happened to me, Paracelsus. We had a contract to do security at a particular site that required a site manager and two additional guards. My site manager was fired for some stupid reason (which was maybe half-justified), but they didn't tell the me or the other guy that he had been let go. Instead, for two days we just ended up mysteriously short one guy (didn't sit well with the site) and, after repeated calls of, "What the [heck] is going on?" I was finally told "Oh, you're the acting site manager now. But we don't have anyone else to send right now."

. . . so that meant I got to deal with the client who was unhappy because we were down a guy, "manage" the other guy, and get no additional pay for it.

Now, at the time there were much more than three guards on duty, but the main contract belonged to a company that didn't offer armed service. The three-now-two of us were there to be the ones with the guns. Our company ended up losing the contract entirely (big shock) and they went back to having only unarmed guards. Fortunately for me, both the client and the other security company really liked me and didn't fault me for the problems, and instead offered me a job over there.

The best part was, because they wanted to retain me, the client told me that my current company had lost the contract. My current company decided not to tell any of us that. The day before the contract was to be pulled, I called them and said "I quit." They acted surprised and wanted to know why? When I said "Because I know we've lost this contract and you don't have another position for me right now."

"Oh, but we're looking for something for you! You won't be out of work for long."

"No, I won't be. Because I'm working for this other company. Bye."

Sadly, that's how they ran their business. I think they're no longer around (go figure.)

Long story longer; with my new company, I was promoted to site manager within about six months. But that time, it was done with prior knowledge, proper training, and most importantly, my consent. I loved being the manager then.

But under your circumstances, no. I hated that.

2011-Sep-26, 08:59 PM
Depends on what type of people you are supervising. I supervise engineers, and the prime piece of advice that I can give you is to keep them busy! I have a never-ending list of projects of different types (process refinement, cost-savings, time-savings, build a better mousetrap, etc.), and everyone has one or two of these type projects in addition to their normal "routine" workload.

It's good that you've been on the job for a long time before becoming "acting supervisor." In my first job out of college, they made me assistant supervisor after 8 months on the job, and that was just plain bad decisionmaking on their part! Difficult to manage people who have been there 10+ years when you don't even have one year under your belt.

2011-Sep-26, 09:03 PM
Not me. I have supervised a technician or two, or been the lead person on a Work Team, at various points of my career, and that's about the limit for me.

2011-Sep-27, 10:03 AM
Use to lead a team of 20 odd engineers in my earlier company. That was tough! Now I have to lead virtual teams. That is even worse, as you are a "boss of everybody" and "boss of nobody" at the same time!

2011-Sep-27, 11:56 AM
Use to lead a team of 20 odd engineers ...

Are you trying to say you had some normal engineers?

I've been told I'm 'acting supervisor' for an indefinite period of time ...

How to put this... You're dead.

"Acting" supervisors have no lasting authority so they can ignore you. An "indefinite" period means you could be out tomorrow and is just another reason to ignore you.

I've supervised various groups over the years, hourly labor and salaried professional, and first-line supers. It can be challenging and rewarding and frustrating and fun.

If you really don't want to supervise people at all, tell your boss. Some folks are better suited to staff roles than line. But, he must see something there that you may have overlooked.

If you want to give it a try (or have no choice), call a meeting and talk with your people. Tell them since this may not be permanent, you won't make any sweeping changes. Remind them that you're (still) all on the same team. Be more of a coordinator and organizer than a supervisor. Listen - really listen - to what they have to say. Don't boss, guide. Be a resource they can depend on. Be approachable, but don't try to be their friend.

Oh, bring donuts and jalepeno sausage rolls to the meeting.

Heid the Ba'
2011-Sep-27, 12:15 PM
This comes with the caveat that it isn't my field of law, not my jurisdiction etc.

Get HR to provide a timescale for the replacement of the superviser, and whether that is to be you or someone else.

Tell HR what training and support you need, if you don't get it then it is down to them not you if it all goes minty.

Insist that HR/your manager clarify what authority you have, and what additional remuneration you will receive for the additional responsibility.

If you don't sort these out to your satisfaction at the start you never will, and if you can't sort them out don't accept the position.

Edit to add: yes I like being the boss, but my partner deals with the staff.

2011-Sep-27, 12:21 PM
Did a 2.5 year run as the supervisor for a 24 by 7 data center operation; NEVER EVER AGAIN.

2011-Sep-27, 02:20 PM
I like being the sup when I've been allowed to build the team, and I like building teams a lot more than I like running them. I'd be more than a little hesitant to take over and existing team. See the notes on HR above, good stuff.

2011-Sep-27, 02:47 PM
I've been a lead engineer but never a manager. I liked it that way. First line manager at my former company was the worst job in the place. At least according to most of them. Unfortunately it was a stage you had to pass through to go any higher!

Even being a lead had a major drawback in my view -- I lost some of my skills. In particular, I could no longer run the CAD system, I just didn't have time to learn it and be proficient. Too dang much tracking and reporting to upper management on why I was late with the project after they gave me 60% of the time and budget I told them I needed to do the job. And that was before the inevitable workstatement growth, which never came with any additional budget.

2011-Sep-27, 02:51 PM
Back when I was a test engineer, right out of college, I had to sort-of-supervise technicians. I didn't have to do much supervision, as they were a really good bunch of guys (well, there was one woman) and didn't need to be coaxed to do their jobs. Actually, most of the other test engineers didn't have any problems with the vast majority of the test techs, either, although one test engineer managed to get them incredibly annoyed, mostly because he was a complete jerk.
Of course, I didn't have to do the hard part of supervision, which is deciding whom to hire and fire, who gets the raise, etc.

Of course, some firing decisions are easy. One tech was caught sleeping. In a cot. With a blanket and pillow. If he was caught slumped over his workbench (he was an electronics tech), his supervisor would have had a tough decision (it was a midnight-8:00am shift), but setting up a cot is a bit too blatant to be acceptable.

2011-Sep-27, 04:51 PM
I'm a supervisor of 20-35 engineers (depending on project load).

The bad: dealing with clients; dealing with personal issues, particularly with people you call friends; trying to keep multiple projects on schedule and budget; performance evaluations (the worst part of the job). I regularly feel like I'm about to have a stroke.

The good: getting paid a lot more; being the main advocate for the people who report to me; getting more respect.

You have to be wired to be a supervisor. I long thought I wasn't and it took a good two years to learn how to be a good supervisor, which I think I am. My advice is to immediately get a good handle on budgets and schedules. Nothing will make you more miserable than having management ask why a project is late and overbudget and you have no good answer for them.

I've made some people mad at me, but if you remain true to your principles and treat people with respect, most will realize that when you make decisions they don't like, it isn't personal and you're not just being a witch, as you put it. Good luck. :)

2011-Sep-27, 04:58 PM
Sorry to know you're going through this. :(

The closest I ever came was by default; I was the only person in my "department," and as my actual supervisor didn't know a thing about medical transcription I became my own boss basically. I also had to train and correct 2 people interested in part-time work; neither panned out (one got fired while working there as receptionist; the other had a husband who wanted "the little woman" to stay home and fix his lunch every day -- so she quit).

But as for actually overseeing a group of people? No.

And no thank you!

Do hope it begins getting easier/more comfortable for you. Apparently you "got volunteered" and it's "sink or swim." :(

2011-Sep-27, 07:29 PM
You're going to quit because they're going to make you hold the clipboard on top of your other work? Your savings that good or do you have a trust fund?

I *wish* I had engineers!

Conversation was either WWF soap opera stuff or what was on Sabado Gigante! Unless it was in the warehouse or other mono-gendered enviroment. Then I would literally and with all honesty ask some of these guys, "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"

Half of my job on top of the regular duties was to keep the crew from talking in the shipper's house like it was a bar. Then I had to have half an eye on the new hires to make sure they don't have any "bad habits". Things like ill defined definitions of "personal property", hard drug use, ( I see a charred, bent spoon in your lunch kit you are sooooo fired), and at least four, maybe five times, major sex pervs who couldn't control themselves enough to hold down a damn moving job.

And I told you folks about the cannibal didn't I? Ever have a cannibal in your work crew? Different job, but still I was supervising. And you know, while it's still better than the "child rapist" tag, it isn't by much. (His unit survived the three year seige of the Ituri during the Biafra War by hunting down and consuming other "allied" units for two and a half years until the seige lifted, because there was nothing else to eat and the Nigerian Army wasn't taking prisoners.) He was 16 at the start of the seige. Lord of the Flies meets Silence of The Lambs. Bet he left that part out of his immigration forms.

All and I mean all of the latins would not only have nothing to do with this guy but actively campaigned behind the scenes for his dismissal because he creeped them out. Didn't seem to match most folk's definition of comfortible company.

2011-Sep-28, 01:44 AM
Okay, I had what I consider a very good "reluctant supervisor" story, but after Don's post, I think I'll wait.

2011-Sep-28, 01:57 AM
Some very good insight here that I won't try to improve upon.

Just to add: one of my very best managers once told his team (us), "My main job as your supervisor is to make you successful." This has stuck with me, and now that I lead a team of 10-12 engineers, I try to live by that attitude always. They aren't there for me; I'm there for them.

ETA: I want to see Jim's story.

2011-Sep-28, 02:38 AM
Doesn't hold a candle, but...

Dow Chemical had a certain research chemist who had developed many patents and products for the company. They were very happy with his performance, so they "rewarded" him by making him a department supervisor, a position he really did not want.

shortly after, Dow decided the company needed to reduce headcount. Instructions went out to all supervisors to reduce their departments by 10%. The reluctant supervisor had ten people in his department; he was going to have to fire someone.

He tried to talk management out of this. "I need them all." "Do with one less." "But they're all good people." "Some better than others." "But I don't want to fire anyone." "That's part of being a supervisor." "Okay, then here's your 10% reduction. I quit."

Faced with losing a very prolific researcher who had made lots of $$ for the company, Dow made an exception for his department.

2011-Sep-28, 06:06 AM
I never did understand the point of view that management is a career path.

Don't get me wrong, I have worked for some of the best people who are really good at it, but it is a different skill set that a lot of people just do not have. I think I had two managers that has had both skills sets(do the job well and handle people) in the course of 30 years. Why take a person who is really good at a job and loves doing it, then make them management? BTW, I'm not one of those two people ;)

2011-Sep-28, 12:23 PM
We had a system where there were two career paths. One was to migrate up to management positions, another was to move up in technical expert positions which were named as different levels of consultant. In other words, "the goto person".

I headed up the latter. It too presented issues. I ended up getting the disasters and doing the clean up work, so I was too busy to get into the ground floor on any project. On the plus side, I wasn't pigeon-holed into a single technology or system.

Since then, we've gone through corporate changes and a buyout. I'm no longer in the headquarters environment, but at least there's enough people left that know my work and abilities which have saved my job numerous times. Unfortunately, the pigeon-holing is coming back.

2011-Sep-28, 03:25 PM
They quick answer is no.

While I am good at managing people and making sure that everything is done on-time, I hated the fact that I couldn't do much technical work myself. I was a manager for about two years and that was 15 years ago.

I absolutely hated all the status reports that I had to do: weekies, monthlys, quarterlies, etc.

2011-Sep-28, 06:43 PM
Thanks for all of the stories and advice, guys! Loved the one about the cannibal..can't say that's come up yet in my job. As we are also short-handed at the moment, I'm having to keep my original 'staff hat' as well as the new 'boss hat', so at least my technical skills will stay sharp (yay). No, BigDon, I unfortunately don't have a trust fund or other job handy, so it looks like I'll be muddling through on this job until I get one of those two other options going. Jim, I'm experiencing the 'no real authority' to some extent already, as I've already acted for almost a year now. We're so short-handed, and unlikely to get more people, that my job isn't on the line. But, I'm noticing that a lot of the plum projects that had come my way as staff (and I got quite a few juicy projects, which is how I got promoted to GS-14 in the first place) are now going to the people under me, regardless of their competence level. It's bothering me quite a bit. I'll just have to show more initiative, I guess, in developing my own projects instead of relying on people to hand them to me.

This is definitely going to be a challenge. I'll try not to whine too much about it and keep my chin up. :)

2011-Sep-29, 01:12 PM
Hey Para, somebody on my side of the computer screen said that first line read a bit "jerkish".

Glad you didn't take it that way.

Oh, just because of your screen name...

Did you know that a dose of strychnine low enough to just be noticible still makes your nervous system feel like it's been sun burned? You can feel every little branch of your nervous system down to the fine wires.

When you travel the world you have to watch the truely exotic cuisine. Or you learn new phrases like "local resistance".

2011-Sep-29, 03:23 PM
Hey Para, somebody on my side of the computer screen said that first line read a bit "jerkish".

Glad you didn't take it that way.

Oh, just because of your screen name...

Did you know that a dose of strychnine low enough to just be noticible still makes your nervous system feel like it's been sun burned? You can feel every little branch of your nervous system down to the fine wires.

When you travel the world you have to watch the truely exotic cuisine. Or you learn new phrases like "local resistance".

Heh. I'm mainly worried about peanuts when I travel more than anything else. I have a severe peanut allergy; if I eat peanuts, I go into anaphylactic shock. Haven't been poisoned yet, but I've eaten some very nasty food overseas--mainly in Scotland.

Heid the Ba'
2011-Sep-30, 09:11 AM
but I've eaten some very nasty food overseas--mainly in Scotland.

Says the woman whose regional cuisine involves Hillbillies and roadkill . . . :)

2011-Sep-30, 11:37 AM

2011-Sep-30, 03:02 PM
Alright everybody, play nice. I'm sure Scottish food is perfectly acceptible to Scotsmen.

And folks from the UK have no business making fun when you have Bear Grylls all over the airwaves scarfing every bit of fallen stock that isn't actually fly blown.

I know actual bears that are more discriminating.

(Yeah, I know he's English, but you're close enough you could throw a rock at him or something. "Dude! Take that out of your mouth! You're making the rest of us look bad! And nobody wants to see your bare butt yet one more time!)


2011-Sep-30, 09:23 PM
Says the woman whose regional cuisine involves Hillbillies and roadkill . . . :)

What does Hillbilly taste like? :)

2011-Sep-30, 09:52 PM
What does Hillbilly taste like? :)

The Backroad Astronomer
2011-Oct-01, 04:38 PM
The other white meat.

2011-Oct-01, 05:02 PM
While I am good at managing people and making sure that everything is done on-time, I hated the fact that I couldn't do much technical work myself. I was a manager for about two years and that was 15 years ago.I used to sit in the next room and bite my tongue listening to technical arguments. Once, I relented and barged in, explained in five minutes what was going on, and left. No big deal. They thought I was great to work for.

I also used to spend ten minutes and clean up after them, after work.

I absolutely hated all the status reports that I had to do: weekies, monthlys, quarterlies, etc.Yeah that. You need a system. :)

One time, sitting in on a gripe session between an NSA middle management team and our contractor accounting team, I suddenly realized that they were complaining that there was no way to track communications and followups, and that the huge volumes of tracking reports that we generated daily, per contract specification, were not only not being read, but they didn't even know they existed! :)

mike alexander
2011-Oct-01, 05:34 PM
After many years of unsatisfying play on corporate chutes 'n ladders I found a position as the guy who fixed the instruments everyone else used to keep the cash flowing.

Find a small company and beome the chief mechaninc.

2011-Oct-01, 05:44 PM
The earliest supervisors that I had were people who'd advanced through the ranks, on merit, over a long period, and they knew everything about the work that I was expected to do, and I could respect that. I could also go to them for good advice. I could give them realistic task estimates because they understood the work. They were not schooled in manipulating people, and thus had no clue as to how to do that, except those acquired through experience.

So, I was spoiled. I don't thjink that I could ask (much less order) anybody to do something that I couldn't do. So, I couldn't supervise except in an ideal situation as I've described. I'm not sure there are any like that any more.

2011-Oct-01, 06:01 PM
I always felt bad for my manager when I reported data to teams that didn't normally receive my collected information. The issue was always the same - in a few cases my team could predict certain actions or events generated by consumers. This would lead these teams to think ALL of the data was predicted before hand. These teams would get all upset that we didn't share the information with them before the product was made. We actually did share but when we reported the general prediction, they would not understand the implications for the actual product and ignore it because we had no specific numbers to go with it.

My manager would have to smooth out these outside teams after I ruffled their feathers.