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I recall a familiar childhood nursey rhyme that says:  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me”.  It was recited by parents and teachers urging children to ignore name-calling from playground bullies. In hindsight this was sound advice then for children on the playground to follow. But for life as an adult and in the workplace, it’s a totally different story.

The workplace must be free from bullying and any other forms of harassment. Employees must immediately report instances of this to their supervisors, and like the intent of the nursery rhyme, without retaliating against the accused. Supervisors must take all accusations seriously, investigate, and if bullying is determined, recommend appropriate disciplinary action, including discharge of the accused. Employers must have written policies in place stating there will be zero tolerance for workplace bullying and related behavior, encourage employees to come forward with their charges, and support supervisors in their investigations

Yes, words are harmful. It’s time to clean up the playgrounds and workplaces.



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Becoming an effective Supervisor means using necessary speaking and writing skills. However, effective listening skills are equally as critical. Poor listening skills are a major impediment to communicating with your employees. It can block you in making informed decisions and understanding issues.   Effective listening does involve speaking, but it should be used to seek information, obtain feedback, or clarify what has already been said.

As a Supervisor, know when to close your mouth and open your ears!



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 As Supervisor, one of the more difficult challenges will be to supervise a collection of individuals towards common goals. Your employees will have varied interest, wants and needs. Interpersonal relationships may range from friendly to indifferent to hostile. Equally, some employees may believe that separate achievement is much more important than aggregate success. Regardless of the challenges, the long and short of it is this:  achieving collaborative employee action begins with the individual acts that must emanate from the Supervisor.  The primary way your employees will know that team work is important is for you to first demonstrate it, support it, and reward it.

Your employees will welcome the opportunity to have a voice with setting team goals and objectives. Your use of statements such as “we” and “our” with them will help demonstrate your commitment to group synergy. Encouraging workplace collaboration will open employee communication, shared thinking, and will demonstrate your support of teamwork. Your public recognition of individual as well as group contributions will shed light on the importance of group dynamics.

As Supervisor, leave your employees with the perpetual notion that you are the most selfless person in your group.





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“No” is one of 101 acceptable two- letter words listed in the dictionary. While it is an easy one to pronounce, it may be the most difficult word for a Supervisor to say. Why? Because it conjures up denial, refusal, or disapproval.  However, this powerful word, when appropriately used, may be the most important one in the vocabulary of a Supervisor.


Knowing why to use “no” may be more important than knowing when to use it.  Supervisors who find it difficult to use the word with their employees often are perceived as being easily taken advantage of and lacking in confidence. As a result, when it comes time to say “no”,  they  may not be convincing and   subsequently convinced to change it to a “yes”.


Supervisors must be able to establish certain “non negotiable” expectations of their employees on key issues such as goals, work quality, priorities, and deadlines. When asked to exceed the boundaries of the expectations, it is time, without sounding dictatorial, to just say “no”. Saying it can be prefaced with consideration, rationale, or empathy.  But never utter “no” with regret.


Being an effective Supervisor means being fair but firm with employees at all times. Remember that it is far better to be viewed as a guilt- free decision maker than recognized a a remorseful one. 


This information is provided courtesy of



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“Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success”.

Oscar Wilde, playwright, novelist, poet, critic ( 1854-1900)

Imagine the following scenario; yesterday you and your friend shared adjoining offices, went to lunch together, chatted about being overworked and underpaid, and how you would supervise the department if you were the boss. Today you occupy the corner office with a view, eat lunch with management, chatted about profit margins, and how you need to manage the department and your friend now that you are the boss. This describes one of the more daunting supervisory assignments one can encounter: becoming supervisor of a friend. For the most part, people find a measure of comfort in the status quo and its predictability. Changes in any supervisory structure can be unsettling. However, when it involves the elevation of a friend from peer to a position of authority,the change can create conflict between the individuals as well. While not minimizing the formidable challenges associated with the supervisor/friend association, ranging from strained emotions, uncertain work performance, over-supervision, under-supervision, passive-aggressive behavior, and allegations of preferential treatment, the new reporting relationship can be workable. There is one exception. Consensual sexual or romantic relationships  between someone who has  supervisory authority over another should be prohibited.  

At the onset, it is critical the supervisor take the initiative to acknowledge the adjustments that will be required of the change in organizational dynamics and to set the tone for the future. The supervisor must communicate that the new role will now require him or her to focus on management objectives from a supervisory perspective, and similar to the previous supervisor, will need the cooperation of his friend in order for both to be successful. The supervisor must also convey to the friend  the need for genuine acceptance and respect for the change in responsibilities, and the need for them to shift from being viewed as office friends to being office-friendly.

It is crucial for the friend to openly support the new hierarchy, be committed to insuring supervisory success, and avoid creating an office environment that would give others the impression that he or she is pitting the supervisor’s authority against their friendship. The employee needs to abstain from accepting intended or unintended acts of favoritism from the supervisor, and willing to discuss this with him or her about its appearance and the ramifications it would have on both of them. Furthermore, the employee needs to understand that the supervisor  will make decisions that may  not be individually favorable. This should not be interpreted as a power play, but rather the exercise of judgement vested in the position.

Lastly, both the supervisor and employee must  be honest and trust each other throughout the association, and able to recognize if and when it is not working. Taking necessary measures, which could include the voluntary request for ressignment of one or the other, may  be necessary to minimize workplace disharmony and to maximize their continued friendship.

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“Often greater risk is involved in postponement than in making a wrong decision” .

Harry A. Hopf, School of Commerce

While employed with Milwaukee Public Schools, I had the opportunity to serve on Administrative Teams formed to evaluate high potential Assistant Principals for future Principal positions. The Assessment Center, as it was called, was an intensive 5 day process comprised of various exercises and activities designed to evaluate how Assistant Principals would execute functions Principals might face over any given period of time. Assistant Principals had to make decisions based on simulated exercises, and explain the rationale, if any, for  decisions. Members of Administrative Teams would assess and rate individually and on a collective basis Assistant Principals on the exercises and activities. Lastly, Administrative Teams would construct Action Plans based on the strengths and development areas of Assistant Principals. These Plans would be  used as guidelines for preparation for future Principal positions.

A recurring issue Administrative Teams would discuss with Assistant Principals during assessment interviews was why  decisions were not made on certain activities. Responses would include: “I didn’t have enough information to determine a course of action; I didn’t think the issue was a priority; or I thought that over time the matter would resolve itself”. Administrative Teams would express this as: ” a decision to not make a decision is still a decision”. In essence, when no action was taken,this was a case of  a de facto decision; a conscious and deliberate means of handling a situation. Initially, I had a difficult time with this expression since over any given  time frame not all decisions can be made, or that occurring issues rise to the level of needing some action to be taken. But as time went on, I developed a better understanding of this expression, particularly how it impacts managers and supervisors in the workplace.

On a daily basis, managers and supervisors face difficult employee relations decisions. While established  personnel policies, procedures,and guidelines may be in place to assist, managers and supervisors who are indecisive or non decision makers cause, in my opinion, one of the major reasons for the frustration of employees. Indecision also impacts the ability of one to manage or supervise, as it can lead to perceptions of weakness, and/or not being qualified. There are myriad reasons for indecisiveness including a fear of confrontation, criticism, and second- guessing the  decision. Training, peer mentoring, and gaining experience are just a few potential remedies that can assist managers and supervisors. Removal of  supervisory duties and other changes in job functions are other options. However, it is important for organizations to immediately address issues of manager and supervisor indecisiveness and the decadent effect this can have on the workplace. Decisions of organizations to not make a decision about this are still making a decision.

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