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10 Things Supervisors Should Not Do



Supervisors’ actions, both subtle and pronounced, shape the workplace environment. We’ve written an important article on the good qualities that define a good supervisor. However, it is equally vital to delineate the boundaries of what should never find a place in a supervisor’s playbook. These missteps, often stemming from misjudgments or inexperience, can be detrimental, undermining trust, stifling innovation, and even leading to a downward spiral of team coherence.

Although every supervisor has their own leadership style, some methods are flat-out ineffective and outdated. Whether you’re a seasoned supervisor or embarking on your first managerial role, recognizing and avoiding these pitfalls is the key to nurturing a harmonious and efficient workplace. In this article, you’ll learn 8 things a supervisor should never do, and what behavior should replace these habits instead.


Don’t Micromanage

Of all of the things supervisors are responsible for, how they lead and motivate a team may be the most scrutinized. One of the biggest killers of employee motivation and autonomy is micromanagement. This overbearing leadership style is characterized by a supervisor who looms over their employees, constantly providing input and pressure as tasks are completed. 

Micromanagement takes on many forms and isn’t always obvious at first. A supervisor who demands to be actively involved in every step of an employee’s process can be considered a micromanager.

Good supervisors are effective leaders that delegate tasks. When a supervisor fails to delegate responsibilities, they express a lack of trust in their employees. Rather than allow their employees to handle things on their own, a micromanager swoops in and takes the wheel, sometimes taking on the entire task altogether.

Although micromanagement creates the risk of high turnover and unmotivated, dependent employees, one bigger danger lurks around the corner for those guilty of this bad habit. Supervisors who micromanage are statistically more likely to experience work-related burnout due to the long-term accumulation of stress that results from taking on too many responsibilities.


Don’t Play Favorites

Another cardinal sin of supervising is the act of playing favorites. This behavior is surprisingly common and fairly easy to identify. A supervisor who plays favorites openly treats certain preferred employees differently than others. This can show up in many ways, including taking only a small group of employees out to lunch, providing unfair benefits without reasonable cause, and allowing preferred employees to get away with unprofessional behavior.

Playing favorites creates division among employees. Ideally, a skilled supervisor treats their employees equally and holds them all to the same standards. When a supervisor bends the rules for employees they like more, they’re chipping away at the integrity of those workplace policies.

Favoritism at work also erodes the morale of your staff. When employees realize that they’re being treated unfairly, resentment festers, and they stop feeling motivated to work hard because the inherent reward of performing well has been withdrawn. A good supervisor understands that the workplace is not a popularity contest and that all employees deserve equal and just treatment.


Never Gossip

A workplace is meant to be a professional environment, not an elementary school playground. Gossipping about employees is immature and childish behavior that no decent supervisor should tolerate, let alone participate in. Gossip between employees is bad enough, but a gossiping supervisor is much worse.

There is an unspoken power dynamic between a supervisor and their employees. When a supervisor gossips with workers, they’re setting a trap, whether they know it or not. If an employee resists the gossip or declines to entertain it, they risk being disciplined or creating a bad rapport with their boss. There is no excuse to put this kind of pressure on an employee.


Don’t Abuse the Title

There is never any justification for abusing a managerial title, yet it’s unfortunately all too common. There are many ways that supervisors abuse the privileges that come with power in the workplace, including:

  • Taking company products or property without paying
  • Verbal intimidation
  • Sexual harassment
  • Financial malfeasance
  • Discrimination
  • Threats of termination
  • Retaliation against those with different opinions
  • Docking pay

There are many more ways this can occur, but the bottom line is that supervisors should never be leveraging their job status as a means of punishing others or reaping unjust benefits.


Don’t Take The “Hands-Off” Approach

Many supervisors fall into the trap that is the “hands-off” management style. Believing that autonomy is key to success, these managers are rarely engaged with their employees and prefer to observe rather than act. Although employee autonomy is important for morale and skill building, this approach to management is borderline neglectful and often stems from incompetence.

Employees are not machines that can just be left to perform tasks without any intervention. A “hands-off” supervisor fails to provide encouragement or support, essentially leaving their workers to drown in responsibilities without a trusted leader to turn to when things get difficult.

Usually, this management style is implemented by a supervisor who either feels uncertain of their management abilities or by a supervisor who mistakenly believes they are empowering their employees through inaction. This “sink or swim” mentality serves no one in the long run, leaving employees scrambling for assistance while the neglectful manager sits back and tunes them out.


Don’t Practice Authoritarian Behavior

An authoritarian management style centers around a workplace hierarchy, within which employees are pressured into high performance through the use of negative – and sometimes downright abusive – tactics. 

A supervisor using this style is most likely leading from insecurity and ego. They believe that their word is final, that their voice is the only one that matters, and that they have no interest in seeing their employees as equals or empathizing with their struggles. If there is success in the workplace, it’s often attributed solely to the supervisor, whereas when things go wrong, the blame is on the employees.

In an authoritarian workplace, employees have little to no say in anything that happens around them, from tasks to scheduling and everything in between. Instead, the dictatorial supervisor takes full control, removing all employee autonomy. Authoritarian supervisors feel intimidated by their top talent rather than inspired, and they tend to over-discipline employees for small offenses.

Needless to say, this management style is not only cruel and outdated, but it’s just not effective. A good supervisor gives their employees the support they need to excel on their own and encourages, not verbal abuse and excessive rules. In severe cases of workplace authoritarianism, employees may rebel and start refusing to perform tasks altogether.


Never Give Unbalanced Criticism

There’s a reason we call effective feedback “constructive criticism” and not just downright bullying. A skilled supervisor offers criticism in the same exchange as support and encouragement. 

Instead of simply telling an employee they did something wrong, that conversation needs to have some direction. What should the employee do instead next time? What resources might they need to meet expectations in the future? These are questions an effective supervisor would ask.


Don’t Overstep Personal Boundaries

Supervisors should be respectful of the boundaries their employees create and should be aware of their employees’ rights. There are several ways that supervisors overstep boundaries, including:

  • Excessive communication during PTO
  • Pressuring employees to take on additional responsibilities without compensation or a change in title
  • Trying to be a friend rather than a boss
  • Asking for personal information
  • Prying about employees’ social or financial status

Employees have a right to privacy, personal space, and naturally, the right to say no. When a supervisor breaches those boundaries, they’re creating a potential HR issue, or worse, a legal dispute. Supervisors must respect their employees enough to give them space.


Don’t Say One Thing and Do Another

Hypocrisy almost always damages a leader’s ability to be effective. This is why supervisors can’t practice saying one thing and then doing another. As a leader, you are always being watched. If you expect your team members to arrive on time, how often do you show up late? You expect your employees to follow the rules and guidelines, right? But do you often take shortcuts to get the job done?

We all know that “do as I say and not as I do”, never works. If supervisors are seen as hypocrites, it breeds mistrust among those they are in charge of. Supervisors should lead by example in all areas of their work. They should hold the standards of the organization by practicing those standards in plain sight of their employees as well as when nobody’s looking.


Don’t Allow Emotions to Get in the Way

Supervisors play a crucial role in organizations, acting as the bridge between top management and the frontline workforce. It’s essential for them to not let emotions cloud their judgment, primarily because emotional decisions can appear arbitrary or biased, undermining trust and respect from their subordinates.

For supervisors to succeed, they need to be a consistent and clear decision-making process. Emotion-driven choices often lead to unpredictable outcomes. This, almost always causes confusion among employees about what is expected of them. A supervisor’s decisions should always align with the long-term vision of the organization. Emotional decisions tend to be reactive and short-sighted. This potentially jeopardizes the broader goals of the organization. Not to mention the potential legal and ethical ramifications.

Letting emotions get in the way can also be detrimental during conflict resolutions. This is an area where emotionally charged reactions can escalate issues rather than resolve them. Choices made in the heat of the moment, especially those stemming from negative emotions, can violate laws or ethical standards, putting the organization at risk. Employee morale is another factor at play.

One last thing to remember. Professionalism demands a level of emotional detachment. When a supervisor is perceived as too emotional, it erodes their authority. 



An effective supervisor is one that cares for and respects their employees. There are many things supervisors can do to improve themselves and how they lead. Through encouragement and support, they offer constructive criticism but maintain a professional distance. It’s important for a skilled supervisor to understand employee boundaries and rights so that they can lead through inspiration, not forced obedience or neglect.

Also read:

What is the Difference Between a Manager and Supervisor?

15 Signs of a Bad Supervisor

8 Challenges of Being a Supervisor

Ari Bratsis
Team Writer: Ari is a writer, blogger and small business owner based in Washington state.

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Team Writer: Ari is a writer, blogger and small business owner based in Washington state.

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