Transitioning into a Supervisory Role: 3 Challenges That Arise for Organizations

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For many people, transitioning into a managerial or supervisory position can be a difficult yet exciting experience. There are plenty of challenges and opportunities during this process and it is the organization’s role to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

“With great power comes great responsibility” are applicable wise words from French philosopher, Voltaire, (or Spiderman’s Uncle Ben if you’re a comic book fan.) However, part of that newfound responsibility is gracefully navigating the transition.

Here are some of the challenges that arise for organizations during this process and how to address them:

Challenge 1: The Announcement

Often times the transition from an employee to a supervisor ruffles some feathers. If another employee was up for the promotion, feelings may be hurt. Other employees may also react emotionally. Having the new supervisor send an email on their own behalf stating that they are the boss now may trigger issues in establishing their new authority.

How to address it:

Make sure your organization has a process in place for announcing personnel changes. The Harvard Business Review notes that when an organization has a good process for addressing the transition, then people will formally acknowledge the new supervisor as such. Not having a formal announcement process could lead to question of credibility or authority of the new supervisor. An announcement directly from the new supervisor may come off as arrogant to their new employees whereas an email from upper management or HR may set the tone for a more formal relationship.

Challenge 2: Preparedness

Navigating from the role of an employee to a supervisor comes with such a broad range of challenges it is nearly impossible for an organization to have a formal policy about how to handle each and every challenge. Moving into a supervisory role for the first time can present more issues than just learning how to now manage their friends or previous peers. A new supervisor may struggle with delegation and micromanagement issues, communication issues, or learning how to develop, mentor and empower others.

How to address it:

Try connecting the new supervisor with other managerial staff or assign a mentor. Monica Burke and Aaron Hughey from Western Kentucky University report that new supervisors should get a mentor and that “having the benefit of the insights from someone who has been through a similar experience can be invaluable.”

Western Kentucky University also notes how important it is to enhance leadership skills through training. If a supervisor lacks leadership skills, that supervisor may not be fully effective. A supervisor with leadership skills may develop a stronger, more accountable team. Setting up a new supervisor training program for all supervisors in the organization to take advantage of could do wonders for the transition.

Challenge 3: Conflict Management

Receiving backlash from former peers on some unpopular decisions the new supervisor must now make is common especially if the employees are still comfortably treating the new supervisor as one of their own instead of management.

The Society of Human Resource Management suggests offering support to the supervisor with the knowledge of how to “recognize causes of workplace conflict, how to facilitate resolution of conflict and how to manage the work relationships once the conflict has been resolved.” These instances of conflict may arise from varying view points between employees, having to depend on one another in order to make progress on a project, or miscommunications.

These types of support should be in line with your current policies and practices.

New supervisors face these challenges and more. It is important for the Human Resources department to support and offer assistance during this transitional period.

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