Co-Supervisor Supervises My People!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about co-worker supervising beyond his/her authority:

I am a supervisor in a governmental agency where a group of workers are split between myself and another supervisor. My problem is this: My co-worker (the other supervisor) has a habit of supervising people for whom I am responsible as well as the people he is responsible for. Although this only happens from time to time, it makes me feel inferior. Why can’t this guy mind his own business when it comes to my subordinates? P.S. I really consider this guy a friend and I know that he only means well, but what can I do? Should I just not say or do anything?

Signed, Tongue-tied

Dear Tongue-tied:

Has your friend, who crosses the line to assist supervising your people, helped or hurt getting the job done? Did he make assignments, correct mistakes, discipline, and/or monitor your people? Has the way he has supervised been communicated as you like? Has he consulted with them about assignments, workload, and when assignments are to be completed? How have you responded to his occasional “help”? Have you thanked him or ignored what he did? Is it not time for you and your friend to discuss each of your responsibilities: How your workload is partitioned? What you can do and are doing to help your work group function as a team rather than to work solo or as a split group? Is it possible that you can assist each other–to be co-supervisors? Can you come to an understanding on how work is assigned–tell, sell, consult, and collaborate?

Some supervisors convey a sense of all business and little room for congeniality? Fear is more important than praise for some. Others are permissive and laid back. Yet others convey genuine concern not just for getting the job done, but for each employee as a person–for helping each on her/his career path, showing consideration for special family needs such as child care and other family members, and expressing interests in his/her personal interests. Have you thought about whether you are exuding enthusiasm for your own work? Have you thought about whether your people are working happy or unhappy?

Might it be possible for you and your friend supervisor to focus on ways you can help motivate your split work group to compete–to see which gang might have more fun doing their jobs while proving themselves efficient and effective, even delighting their internal and external clients/customers? Sure some tasks are more boring than others, some more detailed, some more stressful, some more complex, some needing greater concentration, BUT almost all work can be accomplished more efficiently and effectively when they have a lighthearted touch.Rather than being annoyed with your friend supervisor, why not join him and help each other with the jobs that you do? Have you talked with him about your own career path and where you are on it? And he on his? Might you be supportive of each other–thinking and doing things that make each others’ work easier and more productive? Possibly you need to make boundaries of supervision clear? Or possibly, rather you can be more productive and joyful in your work by cooperating more.

Do any of these thoughts make sense to you? Will you let us know your reactions to them and after a while share with us what you and your friend determine works best for you and your people? That way our workplace forum can pass on what works and what do not with others who have questions similar to yours. Occasionally, I send on my comments to my co-workplace doctors and they add to them. I’m doing so with this Q&A.To think WEGO is not to diminish, but to enrich ego.

William Gorden