The relationships you have as a supervisor with the people you lead (notice I did not say “manage”) are important when it comes to day to day operations. They become especially important is when you have to guide them through change or conflict. I won’t even comment on the appropriateness of intimate relationships except to say if you engage in one then you are taking your career into your own hands and don’t plan on it lasting long. Beyond that, the lines are blurred and you may be engaging in an inappropriate relationship that won’t get you in trouble with management but will with the people you lead.
I am 31 years old and the majority of the people I lead are double my age so I have a unique (but becoming a bit more common) relationship with them. With many reaching retirement age in the near future the younger generation is taking the responsibility of leading and it creates unique issues. Do I sometimes feel awkward discussing a behavioral incident with someone who could be my grandmother? Absolutely, but my approach is what makes it a successful or unsuccessful discussion. I have learned that a “by the book” or “letter of the law” approach is not always successful. This is where emotional intelligence comes into play. As a leader you need to identify the needs of the people you lead, both as a group and individuals. It is very important to distinguish between the two because the needs of the group may be vastly different than as individuals. Once you do this it is easier to lead them because you know what they need to be successful and what you need to avoid, staving off failures. If you can successfully identify the needs of the group and individuals you can have relationships that grow and the people you lead will have confidence in you to lead them.
One issue that gets supervisor/managers into trouble is favoritism. It doesn’t even have to be true; perception in any workplace is often seen as fact. If one employee thinks that you favor another employee over them you will instantly lose their respect (not to mention a certain amount of work ethic). This can be especially difficult if you have worked with a group for an amount of time as coworkers and then you are promoted to supervisor. You will already have developed relationships and more than likely friendships with them so some of the perceptions may start with the start of your new role. If this is the case it may be a good idea to have a discussion with the group once the new role is assumed.
I have had the experience of taking over for someone that had their responsibilities taken away so I had some hard feelings to deal with when I took over. It was very difficult but I learned that if I took it day by day and worked with each individual they eventually came around and understood I was only there to help. There are all different kinds of situations that pop up as we lead our teams. We fight fires and make sure we don’t take on too much water that we cannot float. If you do not address these issues when they present themselves you may wait too long and not be able to steady the ship.
–Matthew Herasuta, MBA, MLS(ASCP)CM is a medical laboratory scientist who works as a generalist and serves as the Blood Bank and General Supervisor for the regional Euclid Hospital in Cleveland, OH.