Supervisors Should Know the Expectations

Ideally, your boss is as invested in your success, as you should be in your own employees’ success. Ideally.

But very few people are so fortunate that they begin their supervisory careers in well-managed organizations with crystal clear expectations. Everyone’s on best behavior during job interviews, not just the job candidate, and it often happens that the rosy scenario you’re supposedly walking into is a bit more complicated than it appeared. Even given reasonable goodwill, many veteran managers remember (without any nostalgia) the unnecessary “sink or swim” situations when they started out.

So, your early days on the job will require serious extra time and energy. In addition to walking around and learning as much as possible about your employees and what they do, you’ll need to have enough communication with your own boss to flesh out expectations and be totally clear about how your own job performance will be measured.

Don’t be put off by talk of the “good old days” – that can be a sign of a healthy workplace culture. The information can be gold, and, more importantly, that’s good energy you don’t want to squash.

It’s great to hear stories about the cast of characters, and about grand experiments that failed or succeeded. What have been some chronic problems? How would others like to see your department work well with theirs? Yes, be careful. Some of it’s just gossip, and your biggest need is to have a vision of success that squares with the people who hired you, and can be transmitted to your people.

How will it be measured? If it’s purely dollars and cents, well… you need to know that. But sometimes the task is to update and modernize, rein things in, loosen them up, bring calm to a situation that has gotten messy, become more efficient, or more integrated into the larger whole.

Now that you’re a “colleague,” those conversations should have a different quality from the interviews that led to your hiring. How often does your boss want to be updated? What level of problem does management need to hear about, and what kinds of things would it prefer that you just “handle?” You need to hear that, and they need to hear you as you discuss tasks, people, resources, responsibilities, and deadlines.

There’s always some discrepancy between what gets said in conversations with upper management about the right way to do things, and what actually plays out on the ground. Some of that’s just being human, but it can also morph quickly into a problem – with you being the one getting squeezed. Developing an early understanding of expectations goes a long way toward keeping the situation – and your managerial career – in good working order.

Once that’s done, go for it!

Shaun Kieran, LCSW

207 767-3864

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