Top 3 Reasons Why Staff Supervision Is A Manager’s Most Important Task

If you aren’t managing your staff, supervising them in their role – then you are doing them, your organisation, and yourself a huge disservice.

Staff management is not just telling other people what to do, and even small businesses should set aside specific one to one time with all staff. You will be rewarded will more time overall.

1 – It gives both parties time to focus.

On taking up my new role in the Public Sector, I was staggered by how much I felt ‘jumped on’ when I walked into the various offices that held my staff across the county.  I realised that staff were taking whatever opportunity they could to raise issues with me as their manager.

By putting in place short but scheduled and frequent supervision sessions that followed a prescribed agenda, staff felt confident that they had a ‘forum’ in which to raise issues and, if relevant would wait for supervision to raise them.

An additional benefit came from being able to ask staff the question ‘will it wait for supervision’. Time and again staff would stop and think seriously about this, and often park issues until their focused time with me.  An interesting outcome of this was that by the time it came to supervision, a burning issue could no longer as urgent and usually taken off the table or, at the hand of the staff themselves: solved.

Satisfying and motivating for both parties.

2 – It is a time to ask specific questions.

One of my favourite supervision areas is that of succession planning. Staff would constantly surprise me with their view of a preferred career path.  By asking what people want to be doing next, you can open a rich vein of dialogue that gives you useful resources as the manager and supports staff development and motivation.

I saw very real benefits by asking and acting upon this simple question:

  • I had a cross-trained team that I could cover exceptional absences with
  • staff could change their minds about leaving the team for other roles
  • I was able to plan better for training needs
  • I was able to more accurately forecast potential staff turnover
  • Hidden talents within the staff team were uncovered

Supervision was the perfect forum to task/empower staff to arrange a day in another office or team by the time the next scheduled supervision came around.

If you are fortunate to work within a large and varied organisation then this can be a lot easier, but be creative and find ways with your staff for them to satiate their thirst for knowing what goes on outside of their own roles.

Less tangible yet extremely valuable second level benefits that I have garnered from this include:

  • Reduction in staff exercising a monopoly on a business area / information
  • Increases in staff loyalty for their progressive and supportive manager
  • Increases in internal applications for jobs into the team

3 – It is the best place to manage or pre-empt issues.

If you have an issue in your team, or you are part of a team and you have an issue let me ask you this question: have you raised it in supervision?

In every way that you can possibly look at this situation, even if your manager is the problem, supervision and the following copy of the notes of discussions and actions are the foundation of the best way to deal with all sorts of issues such as: bullying, poor performance, home life effects on work life, training requests, pay increase requests, job dissatisfaction, and policy breaches by the organisation or colleagues.

By not raising issues in supervision, which by now you should be able to see as a supportive adult-to-adult work-based environment for discussion and problem-solving, you are potentially delaying the initial steps to managing that issue to its best outcome. Anything outside of supervision can be overlooked as hearsay, general staff dissatisfaction, or anecdotal. Bringing something up in supervision is key to starting the processes of reflection and solution – by all parties.

And yes, there are always going to be staff that work this system and raise a lot of things for a manager to deal with. But as a managers experience and skills grow, so will the discernment to navigate what is for them to deal with head on, and what can be unpicked more or challenged back with staff who do this. As a manager, don’t be caught without answers when issues arise or escalate, lose your staff suddenly without warning, or become inundated with staff management issues when (as a multi-disciplinary manager) you have other tasks in your remit. Supervise.

As a staff member, get your issues, concerns, or requests down in writing in supervision, be supported for your career path even if that is to stay where you are, and make sure that you get the one to one time that you deserve and need as an employee so that your manager can let you know what is expected, how you are doing, and what they will do to support you in achieving that.

Supervision. It’s what every good manager knows.

The Capable Manager


2 responses to “Top 3 Reasons Why Staff Supervision Is A Manager’s Most Important Task

  1. I work in a group home for the Mental Health the past five months now and they don’t offer supervision, what can i do because i have concerns with other staff members and not sure how to deal with this on my own. I have mentioned this to my superviser ans she told me to speak to the staff member about any issues i have with them. I would be very grateful for your input thank you.

    • Hi there. Apologies for the delay in responding. Firstly, I don’t believe that ANYWHERE it is considered ‘best practice’ to expect front line service delivery of this type without effective management/supervision of staff. I have to say I am appalled to hear it. Your supervisor sounds untrained in her responsibilities too. In effect – your situation is poor. You have four strategies that you can employ here (plus a simple one right at the end:
      1 – to tackle the situation head-on and raise the issue of non-supervised working practice (risky especially if you are in your probationary period)
      2 – to play a longer game and join practitioner groups to gain information and group support in requesting that supervision is offered
      3 – to discreetly approach your local safeguarding team and ask for advice and guidance. You may be protected by whistle-blowing policy here but it isn’t certain
      4 – to effectively put in place your own supervision by approaching an external ‘mentor’ a highly regarded practitioner, an academic, or a Trustee (this one may become self-fulfilling because no self-respecting professional will sit still knowing your situation and will probably raise the issue).

      By raising this bigger issue of lack of supervision (or 1-2-1 time as it can be known) with a manager, your issue with the staff member can be addressed in the end BUT there is a time issue here too. Your concern about the staff member should be risk assessed. If it’s a high risk of harm and/or likely to happen then you could opt to Whistleblow. The company/project policy should guide you what to do.

      My personal opinion is that you should never be left to address another staff member’s behaviour/professionalism without guidance or a fully open culture and environment (which I assume you don’t have there) and that by invoking a higher ‘pure’ policy addresses the fact that there is not another protected method of raising issues.

      When all is said and done, it depends on the seriousness – of course. To be honest, many people would just say that you should go and talk to the staff member, being open and honest and not pointing the finger in any way. You could try this, but I would suggest telling the supervisor that you want them there too as you are ‘new’ and it might not be seen as ‘your place’. I think there are bigger fish to fry on this but this way might solve the initial problem sooner rather than later.

      Do let me know how it goes.

      With best wishes, and deeply honoured that you asked my advice, TCM

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