Oversupervision vs. Undersupervision: Finding the Perfect Balance

Having direct reports can be hard. There’s so much work as it is and having to manage several employees on top of that can be overwhelming. And especially when there are urgent tasks to complete, it can be difficult to prioritize time with your direct report.
Some managers tend to pull back in situations like this, leaving the direct report to fend for him- or herself. Interestingly enough, other managers tighten the reins, keeping a closer eye on the direct reports and micromanaging, leading to more time lost. Contradictory, I know, but this does happen.


Employee Oversupervision by Manager

So how do you give your direct reports what they need, while also preventing them from feeling like you’re breathing down their necks? The answer is the same as what can save a marriage on the brink of disaster or stop a heated discussion from erupting into a fight: communicate. I mean, honestly, who knows how much supervision they need better than the direct reports themselves?
Communicating to Determine the Amount of Supervision

Communicating to Determine the Optimal Amount of Supervision

So have a conversation (that’s dialogue, not monologue) with your direct reports to see what they are up to and ask if there is anything you can do to help. A quick check-in can provide valuable insight into the challenges and successes in your employees’ lives, and even if you’re not able to help them on the spot, be sure to provide a follow-up meeting to sort out any issues and give your support.
Here are the steps to take to strike the perfect balance between oversupervision and undersupervision:

  1. Talk with your direct report. He/she knows best how much supervision you should provide. Ask about any areas of a task where he or she would like more supervision and if there are any areas where he/she would be comfortable with less supervision.
  2. Show that you care. Remember that your goal is to learn how to better tailor your supervision to your direct report needs. And by meeting these needs, he/she will be more satisfied, committed, and better prepared to work well. Describe to your direct report how much you want these things for him/her.
  3. Follow through. Don’t you hate when you trust someone to do certain actions (especially for something that impacts you), and he/she lets you down? Your direct report is trusting you to follow through with what you agreed. Be sure to prioritize this, as trust is easy to lose and difficult to gain.

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4 thoughts on “Oversupervision vs. Undersupervision: Finding the Perfect Balance

  1. Reblogged this on PsychoSoAnt and commented:
    This article falls nicely in line with what I was talking about in my article earlier in the week. You have to strike a balance. Simply allowing your tasks to take precedence over leading and managing places you back in to an individual contributor position. It also pushes you to exactly the “you’re responsible for your own [fill in the blank]” talked about in this article. Leading and managing needs to be respected as a job, not as simply an extra thing that happens. We have really lost our focus on each other as people, and our responsibilities to help each other and that many times goes double for managers. Every one wants to be the hero, but that can mean different things depending on the role you are in…you need to decide if you are okay being the hero in that way or leave the position.

    • Fantastic points, Christopher! As you mentioned in your article, hopefully with more of this awareness and focus on one another, leaders can foster a more cohesive and trusting environment. Thanks for sharing!

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