Models of employee supervision


Models of employee supervision

· 3. Failure to address problems and concerns. Supervisors and/or managers need to take immediate corrective action when problems arise. For instance, when management becomes aware of a harassment complaint, they have a legal obligation to take immediate action to investigate and prevent further instances of harassment. If the employer is made aware of the harassment but fails to remedy the situation, the employer may be liable for damages caused by the continued harassment. Another situation that requires expeditious action is where an employee exhibits poor performance. Management needs to immediately address the employee so that there are no surprises down the road. If later the employer chooses to terminate the employee, then the employee cannot say that they were never counseled about their performance. When management immediately addresses concerns as they arise, it sends a message to all that certain behavior will not be tolerated. Conversely, when managers do not immediately address problems as they come up, it is just asking for problems in the future.

· 4. Untimely professional feedback and disingenuous evaluation. Supervisors and managers sometimes fail to provide negative feedback and evaluation when warranted. It causes problems when management is not upfront and honest with the employee regarding their performance. Managers should give constructive criticism and praise when necessary. However, managers should relate the criticism to the job and not the person. For instance, it is proper for an employer to point out that an employee consistently fails to meet deadlines, but it is not appropriate to characterize the employee as too slow or too old. This may be perceived as direct evidence of discrimination. When giving praise, it is acceptable to say, “has met the office goals,” but do not use words like “energetic, vibrant, or youthful.” To avoid falling into these traps, it is best to measure performance on objective criteria. Using subjective criteria could lead to discrimination complaints. An employer should also provide rewards to employees that are consistent with the evaluation. For instance, it sends a conflicting message to the employee if an employee is terminated after receiving an outstanding performance evaluation.

· 5. Inadequate supporting evidence and lack of documentation. Ineffective supervisors and managers fail to adequately document performance issues. Without a paper trail of incidents such as memos, performance evaluations, disciplinary actions, etc., the employer is at a major disadvantage. In cases where employers do not have documentation to support issuing disciplinary action or termination, employees are more likely to perceive the action as discriminatory. Therefore, the employee is more likely to pursue avenues of redress, such as filing an internal complaint of discrimination or filing a complaint with a governmental agency. The problem may be remedied by making it a practice to document employee performance issues to support subsequent adverse employment actions.

· 6. Inadequate training and lack of employee development. Employers need to provide effective training at all levels for front-line, managers, supervisors, and human resources staff. Managers need to view training as an investment. Spend the resources on training staff now to avoid potential legal problems later. Supervisors and managers need to know how to handle difficult situations and the proper steps to take. Failing to be well versed in all policies and procedures can lead to complaints of illegal discrimination.

· 7. Management sets the tone in the workplace. Incompetent supervisors and managers need to be held accountable. If not, subordinates may think the behavior is okay. Supervisors should be treated no differently than their subordinates with respect to disciplinary measures and professional development.

This is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. These are general issues that, in my experience, have led employees to perceive illegal discrimination in the workplace and take subsequent legal actions against their employer. By taking the aforementioned issues into consideration, supervisors will go a long way to enhance the supervision and evaluation of employees consistent with agency mission and vision and legal requirements that guide and direct pubic agencies.

SOURCE: Monica Lozer, Federal Investigator, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


Models of employee supervision have proliferated over the past few decades ( Rainey, 2014 ). These models of employee supervision serve as a guide and direct employees. Public agencies seeking improvement in the quality of employee supervision have attempted to apply the principles and practices of private-sector management to the public sector (see  Ouchi, 1981 Peters and Waterman, 1982 ). Some applications have been in the criminal justice system. Our objective here is to show how these ideas translate into specific models of supervision. The reader is asked to place these models within the contexts described previously—namely, an organizational goal context and an organizational structural context.

Models of employee supervision: The ways in which organizations guide and direct their employees.

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