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What Employees Need from Supervisors to Succeed

It’s a well-known fact that management in any industry can make or break a position for new hires. When capable, compassionate supervisors are at the head of the workplace, employees feel inspired to succeed.

Employees look to their supervisors as catalysts for their growth. Employees also need supervisors to be mentors in their career path. The role of a supervisor has evolved from one of mere management. They are expected to support and represent the culture of the company. Supervisors have their own goals to accomplish. At the same time, they are responsible for helping employees reach their goals.

When done correctly, the job of a supervisor can unlock a team’s full potential and can help create a wave of success within a department or organization. But in order to do that, employees need some specific things to be effective. From the voices of employees all over the world, here are some things supervisors should strive to deliver.

The Benefits of Good Management

It should come as no surprise to learn that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than their peers. Employees who report feeling respected and appreciated at work are less likely to experience unexcused absences and lateness. Simply put, when supervisors are committed to creating a pleasant work environment, everyone benefits, from CEO to hourly workers.

In the book Leadership Gold, author John Maxwell writes, “People quit people, not companies”. This phrase hits the nail on the head. High turnover rates usually reflect management styles and interpersonal relationships. Retaining your top talent for the long term means investing in quality leadership now.


Establish Clear Goals and Expectations

Clarity in the role of a supervisor is extremely important. Leaders of all kinds have expectations of their team. However, sometimes those expectations are not clearly defined. This is especially true in smaller organizations where roles and responsibilities overlap. This can also happen in organizations that are just plain unorganized. Having a clear set of goals and expectations for your employees leaves no ambiguity about what they are there to do and what the definition of success is in the eyes of the organization.

Also, clear goals facilitate better performance management. They provide a baseline against which an employee’s performance can be measured objectively. This is essential for constructive feedback and for identifying areas where employees may need additional support or training.

As a supervisor, ask clarifying questions to make sure your employees understand their role and what is expected of them. Put those goals and expectations in writing and revisit them periodically. For an employee, there is little worse than thinking you’re doing a great job but then later finding out that there were unstated expectations put on you by leadership.

Support and Consideration

In a worldwide survey of employees from all industries, support, and consideration ranked #1 on desired behaviors from management. Most employees are capable of performing their assigned roles and prefer a manager who can support them from the sidelines. Being a supportive supervisor means offering counsel when necessary and taking the time to listen to your employees.

One way to offer support as a supervisor is to simply be available. Ensure that your employees know they can come to you with questions anytime, judgment-free. Keep office hours or a professional email nearby in case someone needs assistance or feedback unexpectedly.

One small act that can make an impact includes speaking to your employees personally, not just professionally. If you only approach your employees to address a mistake or make demands, you create a tense relationship. Instead, put forth the effort to get to know your employees. Ask them how their shift has been going, and how they’re feeling, and really listen. Connecting with your employees helps them feel valued and respected as individuals.


Open Communication

Clear, direct communication is key in any leadership position. Employees should be able to come to a supervisor with questions or concerns and leave feeling confident. Even though supervisors don’t always have all the answers, it’s important to make time to hear employees out.

Employees work better when there are clear, assigned expectations. Disorganized supervisors may struggle with shifting responsibilities and roles around, but this can create unnecessary stress for workers.

Some supervisors may struggle with delivering feedback. It’s easy to let problem behaviors slide when it means potential conflict. However, a skilled supervisor knows that sometimes, conflict is necessary to create change. Don’t be afraid to communicate negatives as well as positives. Addressing problematic behavior early says that you’re firm, but understanding.


A Foundation of Trust

It’s rarely discussed, but even in the workplace, there is a base level of trust which must be met. This shows up in several ways. For example, employees trust one another to perform their assigned tasks on time. Interestingly, there’s also a layer of trust between supervisors and employees.

Employees want to be able to trust that their supervisor has good intentions, will act fairly, and can handle difficult situations. A skilled supervisor creates this foundation of trust by consistently providing support.

A good supervisor also reciprocates this trust. Part of trusting employees means giving them the space they need to succeed without micromanagement. Supervisors who constantly monitor employees exhibit a lack of trust, which disrupts their authority and creates anxiety. When employees and supervisors trust one another, they can excel to new heights.


When things go wrong, employees need to be able to rely on their supervisor. Being management has its benefits, but it also comes with additional responsibilities. A good supervisor knows that their employees can count on them when difficult situations come up at work.

Not only should a supervisor be eager to help whenever needed, but they also need consistency. There is nothing more stressful than a supervisor whose mood is vastly different day-to-day. The behavior of a supervisor actually sets the tone for the rest of the workplace. If employees are never certain which version of you they’ll get, it creates a stressful environment where everyone walks on eggshells.

Instead, supervisors should aim to be consistent, reliable, and predictable. Supervisors are pillars of support for the workplace. When a supervisor is calm in the face of difficulties and doesn’t let their mood change their behavior, it reflects a stable, safe work environment, and instills confidence in employees.

Commitment to Equity

Unfortunately, favoritism in the workforce is a very real problem. Unskilled supervisors might get overly involved in workplace drama and exhibit preferences. Not only is this unethical due to the power imbalance, but it’s doing a disservice to the other, unappreciated employees.

Although it’s perfectly human to prefer certain personalities, it’s critical to maintain professional integrity. Good supervisors provide equal opportunities to employees and reward quality work.

When disciplinary action is necessary in the workplace, a skilled supervisor should strive to be just and impartial. Sometimes it’s inevitable to mediate a dispute between employees. In these cases, employees want to be heard and feel like their problems and feelings matter. As the supervisor, it’s your job to do whatever you can to find a compromise that works for everyone.


Training and Tools

To ensure their success, one of the critical elements employees require from their supervisors is training and the right tools. Training programs tailored to employees’ roles provide them with the necessary knowledge and skills to perform their tasks competently. These programs should cover the technical aspects of their job. They should also teach soft skills like communication, problem-solving, and time management. All of which are invaluable across various scenarios they may encounter.

Equally important is equipping employees with the right tools. When supervisors facilitate access to these tech and office tools and provide guidance on how to effectively utilize them, employees are more capable of producing quality work.



Something that all too many supervisors overlook is the importance of recognition. Did you know that 3 in 4 workers report being more productive when they receive frequent praise? That’s approximately 77% of all employees. Imagine the spike in productivity and workplace morale that can result from some simple recognition.

Praising employees when they succeed is only the beginning. Employees also prefer managers who provide ample growth opportunities. Recognize your top talent and most devoted employees with the ultimate reward – a promotion.

Even if a raise isn’t in the cards, it’s paramount to regularly express appreciation for the work your employees do. When you notice an employee consistently delivering their best work, some thanks are certainly in order. You can even get creative with gestures of appreciation. Something as simple as bringing sweet treats to work or hosting a company party can really boost morale.


There are few things as impactful in the workplace as a supervisor. Whether the impact is positive or negative depends entirely on the company culture and the supervisors themselves. Employees who truly seek to succeed and stand out will respond to supervisors who demonstrate dependability and compassion.

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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