Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How important is the right manager for job satisfaction?

Business people in a meeting

My various work experiences have shown me there is a wide variety of supervisors and managers. The right one can make or break your workplace. At one job, the manager was fine for the most part and I got along well with her. However, if there was something that threw her off balance, her reaction was to reprimand everyone, making the people around her as unhappy as she was. Another supervisor was a great person for training and supporting a new addition to the department and ensured I was competent in my job. However, when I was looking for challenges, he had trouble fostering new skills that did not directly benefit him and the department. As a result, I felt confined and bored, and decided to seek another position.

During my schooling, my graduate advisor was a very hands off professor. At first, this did not seem to be a problem because there were other people in lab I could ask, but as I progressed in my career, being unable to pin him down contributed to my dissatisfaction with graduate school. This experience was in complete contrast to my previous university advisor who had an open door policy and was happy to answer my questions at any time, no matter how large or small. Furthermore, he was also willing to acknowledge what he did not know and encouraged me to find answers elsewhere.

In my current position, I have found a rare supervisor. When I interviewed for the department, every person I talked to who worked for my future manager had nothing but positive things to say about her. If that is not testament enough, the position I was interviewing for was the first open in the department in three years, a low turnover rate for the entire company. In fact, I am still the newest person and I have been part of the department for five years. I have experienced the powers of a good boss for myself and I am thrilled to find what I have desired. My supervisor is a great advocate for our department and each person in the department. She offers us the opportunity to learn new skills and encourages us to set personal development goals. She suggests new possibilities or offers new opportunities, is approachable and even works right alongside everyone she supervises. In fact, she even takes on some of the worst projects to let the rest of us take care of other business, and she gave me a promotion without me having to advocate it. Yes, she recognizes people and is generous when she does so.

Why am I singing the praises of my boss? Because it makes a tremendous difference for job satisfaction. There are days when going to work is harder than others, but I have been in my department for five years, the longest I have been in any location ever. A good supervisor who values her employees is an asset and makes working for someone else a more positive experience.

How do you get yourself a great boss if you don't have one? If you are interviewing for a position, ask lots of questions about the manager's style. Keep in mind what you want in a boss and lacking that, what you don't want in a boss. I knew I did not like micromanagers, people who did not encourage me or who were inaccessible prior to my current position. A few example questions that might get at what you might expect from your potential supervisor:
  • How would you describe your manager's style?

  • Do you feel appreciated in your position?

  • If you ran into trouble with someone in another department, would your supervisor back you up?

  • Please give me examples of how your manager helped you develop new skills on the job.

Some people can cope better with poor managers than I can. However, I find that is does affect how happy I am in a particular position. For me, I need someone who is going to be encouraging, accessible and pushes me to do better. Since a supervisor has power over me, I feel better with someone that will be an advocate rather than leaving me alone or even harming my position.

How do you feel about your supervisor?

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