With a promotion to the role of supervisor, comes many things: a larger paycheck, usually a shift from hourly to salaried wages, and more management responsibility. Most people understand those changes. But what new supervisors are often not prepared to handle is conflict.
The shift from being one of the staff to being in charge of dealing with disputes and disagreements takes many new managers by surprise. Suddenly they are thrust into the role of referee, judge and peace maker, and odds are they haven’t had any real training to help them handle those responsibilities.
The right training is essential for most people to make the jump from staff to management. But until they get the opportunity to learn the details, here are a few must-knows for everyone celebrating a new and bigger job title for the first time.
1) Rethink workplace relationships. The friendships they formed as “one of the gang” will have to change now that they’re in a supervisory role. That doesn’t mean they have to completely end those relationships. But they will become more complicated. They’ll have to learn how to set aside any biases they have towards certain people and start treating their entire staff equally. Let them know to expect some pushback from buddies. It’s not easy, but it will usually pass in time once they see they are being fair with everyone.
2) Learn the rules from the source. When someone is a member of staff, they usually learn the rules and proceedures from their supervisors and managers. But with a promotion to supervisor or manager, they need to make sure the rules they follow and enforce are accurate and complete to avoid conflict of the “he said/she said” variety.
The spin a prior leader may have put on particular rules, or the infractions to which a manager turned a blind eye might make sense to retain if they promote healthy workplace interactions and keep conflicts at bay. But it’s also possible that those informal practices and off-the-book rules are feeding disagreements — and need to go. Learning what the rules really are, and how they impact one’s staff is the first step towards making those decisions wisely.
3) Take it slow. Sometimes, new managers and supervisors feel that they need to jump right in and assert their authority in order to be respected. Unfortunately, the result is usually quite the opposite, and conflict erupts. If the new manager will be supervising old colleagues, the sudden “I am boss” attitude will be met with resistance and possibly even sabotage. And new managers coming in from the outside are often resented for being too pushy, especially if the existing staff has expertise about the products, customers or services that an outsider couldn’t know. Adopting an “I need to learn from you” or an “I can’t do it without you” attitude will go a long way towards building team loyalty and reducing conflict.
4) Master the compliance elements. Aside from the company rules, almost all supervisors need to understand the elements of federal, state, local and industry labor law as it applies to their staff. Getting a clear grasp on how FLMA, ADA and other labor law compliance standards apply to them is essential, even in companies where an HR department handles most of the compliance work, if conflict over absences, accommodations and other factors is to be headed off. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules about pay rates, overtime, age restrictions, employee classification and other factors that impact work schedules and compensation is also essential for new supervisory staff to understand to avoid infighting over schedules, assignments and compensation.
5) Remind them to breathe! Stepping into a new job as a supervisor or manager can be scary and stressful. But with the right training, and support from other management staff, the new hires or newly promoted can shine in their new positions. Encouraging them to take their time and providing them with the training they need to lead correctly and wisely is always the best way to head off conflict before it begins.