Supervisor Management | Scientific, Human Relation & Functional Roles of Supervisor

What is Supervisory Management?

Supervisory management, also known as lower management level is above the operatives and below the middle management in an organization. This level can be classified into three categories, particularly in a large-sized organization: senior supervisors, intermediate supervisors, and front-line supervisors.

Roles of Supervisor
Scientific, Human Relation & Functional Roles of Supervisor

Supervisory management is concerned with efficiency in using resources of the organization. It is an executor of policies and procedures making a series of decisions with well-defined and specified premises. Generally, a supervisor is called a marginal man in the organization. He is concerned with explaining the views of management to workers and the views of workers to management. Management treats him the man of workers while workers treat him the man of management.

A supervisor performs three types of roles:

  1. Scientific Management Roles,
  2. Human Relations Roles, and
  3. Functional Roles.

Scientific Management Roles of a Supervisor

Scientific management roles of a supervisor are in the form of a technician, analyzer/researcher, and controller.

1. Supervisor as a Technician

Since a supervisor is responsible for the effective performance of operatives put under him, he performs the functions of a technician. In order to perform his job well as technician, he must have thorough knowledge of the technical aspect of the jobs being performed by operatives so that he can tender technical advice, solve the complicated and intricate problems of the present-day organizations which are using modern technology. Though the supervisor does not perform the operative job himself, he is expected to perform the role of specifying and analyzing the jobs carefully to determine appropriate methods of work.

2. Supervisor as an Analyzer/Researcher

Another scientific management role of a supervisor is to act as analyst as the operatives expect that he should design new and scientific job procedures and methods to achieve efficiency in work operations. Though he may get assistance from staff experts such as industrial engineers in job design, he should be well conversant with the operations.

3. Supervisor as a Controller

As a controller, the supervisor tries to ensure that operatives use proper methods of work performance so that the stated results are achieved. As a controller, he does not only measure the performance of his subordinates but takes suitable remedial action if things go wrong, including the actions related to reward and punishment.

Human Relations Roles of a Supervisor

A supervisor is required to perform human relations roles much more effectively because he is directly concerned with workers who perceive themselves as a separate group of persons distinct from managerial personnel. This perception may alienate them from the organization.

Since a supervisor is a kind of link between workers and management, he is required to perform human relations roles which are as follows:

1. Supervisor as a Human Relations Expert

A supervisor is treated as human relations expert because he serves as a negotiator, buffer, communicator, and compromiser. All these require that the supervisor develops a broader perspective to deal with human problems and needs human relations and interpersonal skills. He has to develop good relations with management and workers as he is generally not treated as a member of any one of these.

2. Supervisor as a Counselor

A supervisor is required to provide counseling to his workers. Counseling involves emphatic listening to problems particularly those which have emotional content and advising the workers as to how they can overcome these problems. These problems may be related to the work and work environment or even the personal matters of the workers.

3. Supervisor as a Linking Pin

A supervisor functions as a linking pin between management and workers as he is known as a person in the middle. He is considered as representative of management by workers and workers’ representative by management. In such a situation, the supervisor has to satisfy the needs of both, management as well as workers. He can do this by effective communication.

4. Supervisor as a Motivator

Acting as a motivator is one of the most important roles of a supervisor because he has to motivate workers who generally do not associate their objectives with those of the organization. They may have even negative feeling about the organization. In such a situation, the role of motivating workers is a challenging one. In order to perform this role, the supervisor must understand his workers fully and create a work environment which provides satisfaction to them.

5. Supervisor as a Trainer

A supervisor works as trainer so far as on-the-job training of workers is concerned. He has to train workers requiring skills to perform their jobs effectively. Since many workers may be raw and unskilled, a supervisor faces an uphill task of making them skilled.

Functional Roles of a Supervisor

Besides performing scientific management and human relations roles, a supervisor is required to perform various functional roles which are as follows:

1. Supervisor as a Planner

In performing the role of a planner, a supervisor is required to formulate operational plans for workers, that is, what work is to be done, how to be done, and when to be done. He establishes production targets, schedules, and procedures. All these are required so that the supervisor gets the stated results from his workers well in time.

2. Supervisor as an Organizer

While as a planner, the supervisor decides what, how, and when the work is to be done, as an organizer, he has to define who will do what. He brings people, jobs, machines, materials, etc. together and coordinates them for smooth and orderly functioning. His role of organizing can be compared to a conductor of an orchestra who brings into playing each instrument at right moment to produce melodious music.

3. Supervisor as a Leader

A supervisor should be good leader and exercise appropriate leadership styles to bring the willing efforts from workers. He cannot always rely on his formal authority to get the things done but should influence the workers by his personal skills for better performance.

Though the supervisor has a choice either to adopt task-oriented or people-oriented styles, he should mix these into appropriate proportion according to the need.

4. Supervisor as a Controller

A supervisor works as controller which involves evaluation of the work performance of his workers, measuring this in the light of standard set, and taking appropriate corrective actions where the work performance does not match with the standard. As a controller, he is responsible to ensure that the work proceeds according to plans.