11 Things Supervisors Should Not Do

These are some actions and behaviors that the author says are critical for supervisors to avoid.

When first becoming a supervisor, it can be difficult to know exactly what the right things to do may be and what the wrong things may be. In addition to making the right choices, making the wrong choices can have a significant impact on your effectiveness as a supervisor. 

With so much to learn as a supervisor, those things you should absolutely avoid can sometimes get overlooked. What follows is a list of some actions and behaviors that a supervisor should avoid:

1. Do not comment on confidential information.

There are three kinds of confidential information that you should protect:

  1. Employee information
  2. Management information
  3. Business information

Do not be someone who leaks information. Knowing inside information can be a powerful thing; however, leaking that information can be a disaster both for you as an individual and for your company. For instance, if you have been entrusted with information about an employee’s health, sharing that information with other employees can have a significantly negative impact on that employee as well as what other employees think of you.

2. Do not make exceptions for employer rules and policies for your close friends or family members.

Do not be blind to the rules and policies of your employer just because of a friendship with an employee or a family member at work. Doing so is unethical. Playing favorites is one of the most disliked traits a supervisor can have, and it further undermines the supervisor’s credibility in the workplace.

3. Do not let your ego take control.

When you get caught in your ego, it will gradually reduce the effectiveness of your role as a supervisor as well as the effectiveness of your company. The success of an enterprise does not lie on any one person’s shoulders. Therefore, know what the needs of each team member are to be able to help everyone reach their main goal. If, instead, you broadcast or insinuate that you are the reason everything is going so well, you will easily loose the support of those who work for you.

4. Do not think and act as if you know everything.

Similar to letting your ego take control, a know-it-all cannot be an effective supervisor. While it is a great advantage for a supervisor to be considered smart, it is a disadvantage to make employees feel that they are not smart and offer little towards the success of the organization. 

5. Do not make comments about an employee to someone else.

Avoid gossip. Supervisors should not talk about the behavior or performance of an employee with anyone else. If you talk about other employees, and especially if what you say about them is derogatory, the employees who hear your comments will often think you are also talking about them.

6. Do not allow personal relationships to influence you.

When it comes to evaluating an employee, supervisors should be both objective and fair. Employees want to believe that their supervisor is judging them on the merits and not based on relationships that have nothing to do with the work they are doing. The more you play favorites, the lower you will be viewed in the eyes of the employees you supervise.

7. Do not approve unsatisfactory performance for an employee who has been through a hard time.

While it is okay to empathize with an employee when they have admitted they are experiencing personal problems, this should not be an excuse to approve unsatisfactory performance. Instead, you should acknowledge the unsatisfactory performance, while working with the employee on a plan to fix the deficiencies.

8. Do not diagnose or give advice to an employee concerning their personal problems.

Even if you studied psychology, if you were not hired to be a psychologist, then you should not give any advice on personal problems or behavior to your employees. The person who helps an employee with their personal problems is a friend, not a supervisor. Supervisors are not friends with their employees.

9. Do not moralize or make value judgments of others.

Overall, it is better to respect the privacy and personal life of employees. You may not personally like an employee because of the life choices the employee has made; however, if their choices have not had a detrimental effect on the workplace, and those choices are not otherwise illegal or contrary to company policy, these should not be considered when evaluating the employee. This is especially true when working in a diverse environment with many different kinds of people. 

10. Do not allow behavior that could be dangerous to another person.

Do not let any action jeopardize your employees at work. For example, it is illegal for anyone in the workplace to harass any person at work—physically, sexually or mentally. Therefore, supervisors should always keep their team compliant with the law.

11. Do not allow genuine concern for an employee to interfere with the management of his or her performance.

You are not an employee’s brother, sister, mother, father, priest, minister, rabbi, or psychologist. If an employee is having personal problems, it is not your job to try to fix those problems. Instead, your job is to be fair in the treatment of the employee. If available, send the employee to an employee assistance program that may better deal with the employee’s issues. Your job as supervisor is to show empathy, while not allowing the employee’s problems to interfere with your effectively supervising the overall workforce. 

About the Author

Joe Swerdzewski, former General Counsel of the FLRA & owner of JSA LLC is the author of The Essential Guide to Federal Labor Relations, A Guide to Successful Federal Sector Collective Bargaining, etc. For more info on JSA’s services, email info@jsafed.com or subscribe to JSA’s newsletter.