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Work Daze: Meet the New Supervisor

Good news! You’ve been promoted to supervisor.

Bad news! You’ve been promoted to supervisor.

As a supervisor, you are expected to do many new things. Like work.

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Let’s face it. Not everyone in your department can have the same sick grandmother with the same chronic case of exploding head syndrome — a classic excuse that has always worked for you, but may be difficult to sell with 10 different grandmothers and 10 different exploding heads.

On the positive side, you will also be responsible writing reviews. Spending the workday gossiping about the flaws and failures of your co-workers is fun, but it’s even more fun to put it all down on paper.

Of course, the most vexing problem with being promoted to supervisor is trying to understand why in the world someone promoted you. Have Martians taken over your management team? It’s a lot more believable than anyone thinking a janky slacker like you should be promoted.

So, how does one learn how to supervise?

Actually, you’re better off than you think. You don’t know what to do, but you definitely know what not to do. You’ve had enough terrible supervisors to write a book on the subject — a book that would be terminally nitpicked by your supervisor who will then drag you to a human resources professional for a performance review, a salary cut and a lobotomy. And no, the lobotomy is not covered by your company health insurance.

One good way to learn how to supervise is to search your inbox for an email from GRC Educators. That’s how I learned about their exciting, one-hour webinar, “Supervision 101 — What You Must Know That No One Will Tell You.”

HR consultant Deborah Shigley runs the webinar, and, I assume, she is one person who will tell you what you must know. For $145, it’s the least she can do. Fortunately, if that $145 represents your entire retirement savings, I will also tell you what no one will tell you, and I’ll do it for free. (How can I afford this ridiculously low price? The information I provide is completely bogus. And yes — I do take Bitcoins.)

“Supervisors play a critical role in a company’s mission,” the course description begins. “Supervisors must recruit, lead, and provide a highly-qualified, effective and efficient, customer-focused workforce.”

The recruiting part is easy enough. Hire your friends. Instead of the boring rigmarole of ads, interviews and background checks, a few minutes trolling the bar at The Kit Kat Klub should provide you with enough losers to staff your entire department. Just don’t expect your new hires to work between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. That’s happy hour.

According to Shigley, one key reason people fail as supervisors is “they continue to treat their employees as co-workers. Supervisors need to understand that the dynamic has changed and their interactions need to change as well.”

Totally agree. Your friends at work need to understand that you have been chosen for greatness and they haven’t. A few, simple changes in workplace protocol should make even the dimmest of your dim bulbs see the light.

For example, make it clear that you and your direct reports are no longer on first-name basis. When addressing you, they are required to call you, “Big Boss Man,” or “Big Boss Woman,” depending. (You can show modesty when referring to yourself. Why shouldn’t that new business card read, “Illustrious Brilliant Supervisor, Maester of the Undeserving, King of the First Men, and Hand of the CEO.”)

A gold braid on the shoulders of your T-shirt makes a statement. As does requiring a salute when you leave or enter a room. Your direct reports should enter your cubical crawling backward on their hands and knees. They can exit the same way with a helpful push from a supervisory Ferragamo if you’re in a good mood.

A successful supervisor rewards good behavior. Show your appreciation by giving your direct reports special assignments, like picking up your coffee, your doughnuts, and your laundry. Because you will be so busy supervising, encourage workers to bring in home-cooked meals for your lunch and dinner.

Give a raise for the person who makes the best lasagna. That’s as good a reason as any.

If establishing yourself as a supervisor may be difficult, know that once you have been in your position for a few decades, you will feel comfortable and confident. In fact, you may feel so comfortable and confident that you will be rewarded — with a demotion.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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