Learning & Development

Five Quick Rules for New Supervisors and Managers

The business landscape abounds with HR-related traps for unwary new supervisors or managers, and the stakes are too high to think that they can get trained on the job.

In yesterday’s Advisor,  we talked about supervisors and managers who tried to be good supervisors, but their good intentions backfired. Instead, they laid the groundwork for expensive lawsuits. And we said that the solution is training, training, and more training.

Where do you start? New supervisors are overwhelmed by their new responsibilities. They have to forge new relationships with people who were formerly colleagues. They have to submit weekly reports. And they try to be “Real Bosses.”

Here are five quick rules to get your new supervisors and managers through their first 90 days:

Rule 1. No Rush

As we mentioned in yesterday’s Advisor, the first thing to get across to new supervisors and managers is that they don’t have to make instant decisions. They can step back and seek advice before taking action.

Rule 2. Appearances Count

Supervisors and managers also need to know that appearances count. If you fire someone the day after he or she does does something that is protected, that will give the appearance of retaliation, even if there was not retaliatory intent.

Rule 3. The Stakes Are High

The lawsuits that may be filed over supervisory mistakes can be very expensive. Even when the company “wins” a suit, it has probably spent over $100,000 in legal fees and that’s to say nothing about the lost time and productivity and perhaps bad publicity damaging to the brand.


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Rule 4. It’s Easy to Check with HR

We’re not trying to say that managers and supervisors can’t ever act. The point is that until they are trained, it’s very easy for them to unintentionally create a very expensive problem. HR is there and ready to counsel them if they encounter a sticky problem before their training is complete.

Rule 5. Lots of Rules

The second thing they have to understand is that there are a lot of rules that govern their conduct. The most important are rules concerning

  • Discrimination. They can’t ever take any action based on a prohibited characteristic like sex, race, age, religion, etc.
  • Retaliation. They can’t take action against someone for doing something they have a right to do, for example
    • Making a complaint about safety, or wages, or discrimination
    • Requesting leave to care for a sick child
    • Asking for time off to attend religious ceremonies
    • Requesting a piece of equipment to help ease their job
    • Taking time for jury duty
  • Harassment. Managers and supervisors have to be careful that their actions are not interpreted as harassment. Because of their new power, they should be wary of appearing to be wielding that power over subordinates.

Of course, the federal rules are only part of the picture. Most states have laws that affect HR functions. Actually, there are about 4 dozen key laws with important state differences. Especially if you have operations in multiple states, you need to know all the differences.

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