Everything you need to know about supervision. Supervision is direction, guidance and control of working force with a view to see that they are working according to plan and are keeping time schedule.
Further, they are getting all possible help in accomplishing their assigned work.
Supervision is a Latin Word. Super means ‘from the above’ and vision means ‘to see’. In ordinary sense of the term, supervision means overseeing the activities of others.
In management supervision means “Overseeing the subordinates at work with authority and with an aim to guide the employees, if he is doing wrong.”
1. Meaning of Supervision 2. Definitions of Supervision 3. Significance 4. Roles and Functions of a Supervisor in an Organisation 5. Span
6. Principles 7. Techniques 8. Factors 9. Levels and Problems 10. Requisites of Effective Supervision.
Supervision: Meaning, Definitions, Significance, Techniques, Factors, Requisites and Other Details
- Meaning of Supervision
- Definitions of Supervision
- Significance of Supervision
- Roles and Functions of a Supervisor in an Organisation
- Span of Supervision
- Principles of Supervision
- Techniques of Supervision
- Factors of Supervision
- Levels and Problems Arising from Levels of Supervision
- Requisites of Effective Supervision
Supervision – Meaning
‘Supervision’ comprises two words, namely ‘super’, that is, superior or extra, and ‘vision’, that is, sight or perspective. The literal meaning of the term ‘supervision’ is to ‘oversee’ or ‘to inspect the work of other persons’. Thus, ‘supervision’ refers to an act by which any person inspects or supervises the work of other people, that is, whether they are working properly or not.
In business organisations, there are ‘supervisors’ and ‘subordinates’. According to M. S. Vitoles, supervision refers to the direct, immediate guidance and control of subordinates in the performance of their jobs. Thus, the activity of supervision is concerned with the direction, guidance, control and superintendence of the subordinates. A supervisor performs these tasks. R. C. Allan has called it a ‘responsibility job’, which is above ‘work job’.
Supervision is direction, guidance and control of working force with a view to see that they are working according to plan and are keeping time schedule. Further, they are getting all possible help in accomplishing their assigned work.
Supervision is a Latin Word. Super means ‘from the above’ and vision means ‘to see’. In ordinary sense of the term, supervision means overseeing the activities of others. In management supervision means “Overseeing the subordinates at work with authority and with an aim to guide the employees, if he is doing wrong.”
Overseeing is to be done at all levels of management from top to bottom; Lower-level management or first-line supervisors oversee the work of operative staff, while middle and top management remain busy in overseeing the work of their subordinate management members. But in the ordinary sense of the word, supervision is concerned with directing and guiding non-management members of the organisation.
Supervision – Definitions Propounded by Toft Hartley Act, Vitiates, Davis and G.R. Terry
According to the Toft Hartley Act, 1947 (USA), ‘Supervisors are those having authority to exercise independent judgement in hiring, discharging, disciplining, rewarding and taking other actions of a similar nature with respect to employees’.
We can divide the definitions of supervision into three categories depending on the emphasis these have laid on a particular aspect:
1. From the point of view of emphasis on maximising production – The definition following under this category associates supervision with output, that is, because of their skills, expertise and experience etc., supervisors help their subordinates to improve their output in terms of both quantity and quality.
Thus, supervision implies guiding and looking after the work of the subordinates so as to ensure that the work is being done according to the norms laid down for the purpose. In this way, the primary objective of a supervisor is to help in getting the production maximised both quality- and quantity-wise.
2. From the point of view of emphasis on workers’ performance and human relations aspect – In this category, we include those definitions that lay emphasis on workers’ performance and human relations aspect, and which accept the worker as a part of the social system. Thus, according to this view, supervision is the process by which a supervisor helps the supervisee to adjust to his/her job, to develop team spirit and to assume even greater responsibility.
3. From the point of view of emphasis on the development of the personality of the worker – In this category are included those definitions that lay emphasis on the development of personality of the worker. According to the experts holding this view, supervision is the act of ‘guiding the workers to develop their self in the best possible manner’.
In short, we can say that supervision involves motivating, guiding, inspecting, superintending, developing, coordinating and controlling the subordinates.
According to Vitiates – “Supervision refers to the direct and immediate guidance and control of subordinates in the performance of their task.” Thus, the supervision is concerned with three main functions of management, i.e., direction, immediate guidance and control with a view —
(1) To see, they are working, according to plans, policies, programmes, instructions and the time schedule,
(2) To guide them at the work if they are doing something inconsistent to directions given and need help so as to let them able to accomplish their assigned task, and
(3) To give them directions to get the work done, if necessary.
(i) “Supervision is the function of assuring that the work is being done in accordance with the plan and instruction.”……………..Davis
(ii) Supervision is the task of achieving the desired results by means of intelligent utilisation of human talents and utilising resources in a manner that provides a challenge to human talent. It is concerned with initiating action, putting into effect the plan and decision by stimulation of the human resources of the enterprise.”………………G.R. Terry
Supervision – Significance
Supervision is primarily concerned with overseeing or watching the performance of workers under his control. He plays an important role in the management set up. He is the person who is directly connected with the workers and acts as a vital link between the management and workers.
The significance of supervision can be explained as follows:
1. Issue of Orders and Instructions:
The workers require guidance of supervisor at every step. He clears their doubts and tells them the proper method of doing a job. A sub-ordinate can give better performance when he knows the work he is supposed to do.
2. Planning and Organizing the Work:
A superior acts as a planner and a guide for his sub-ordinates. A schedule of work is prepared so as to ensure an even and steady flow of work. The supervisor lays down production targets for the workers and determines the methods and procedures for doing the work.
3. It is Important at All Levels:
Supervision means overseeing and watching sub-ordinates. The time devoted by top management to supervision is only 20% whereas supervisor (or foreman or overseer or superintendent or section officer) devotes about 80% of his time to supervision. Top management supervises managers whereas supervisor supervises workers. The supervision at the front line or firing line is most important since actual work is done at that level.
4. Vital Link between Workers and Management:
A supervisor is a representative of the management and a very important figure from workers point of view. He communicates the policies of the management to workers (downward communication) and also provides feed back to the management as to what is happening at the lowest level (upward communication).
5. Motivating Subordinates:
A supervisor is a leader at the lowest rung of management ladder. He serves as a friend, philosopher and guide to workers. He inspires team work and secures maximum co-operation from the employees. It is he who can help in getting optimum utilization of manpower.
6. Feedback to Workers:
A supervisor compares the actual performance of workers against the standards laid down and identifies weaknesses of workers and suggests corrective measures to overcome them. In this way, workers can improve their performance in future.
7. Proper Assignment of Work:
A supervisor makes systematic arrangement of activities and resources for his group. He assigns work to each worker and delegate’s authority to workers. Workers feel frustrated when the work being done by them is not properly arranged. Some workers may sit idle whereas others may be overburdened if work is not properly assigned.
Supervision – Roles and Functions of a Supervisor in an Organisation according to Keith Davis
According to Keith Davis, there are five views regarding the position of a supervisor in an organisation or the supervisor’s organisational role which are as follows:
1. As a Key Man in the Management:
A supervisor is the key figure in the organisation because he/she makes decisions, controls work and interprets policy of the management to the workers. He/she represents management to the workers. Therefore, management is judged as he/ she is judged by the workers. He/she is also the main figure in getting the work done. However, in reality, he/she is less than a key figure.
2. Person in the Middle:
According to this view, a supervisor has to work between two forces, namely the management and the workers. On the one hand, management has a lot of technical and production-oriented expectations from him/her, and, on the other hand, the workers also have a lot of reward-oriented expectations from him/her.
3. Supervisor as the Marginal Man:
According to this sociological concept, supervisor is either left out of main activities and influences affecting his/her department or he/she is just on the margin.
4. Supervisor as Another Worker:
According to this view, a supervisor is just like a worker lacking authority and having a feeling that he/she is not part of management. Only his/her designation is changed.
5. Supervisor as a Human Relations Specialist:
As per this view, a supervisor is considered to be a human relations specialist looking after the human side of operations.
A supervisor has to:
1. Help his/her workers to develop their innate qualities to improve their performance
2. Help his/her subordinates to adjust to their job requirements and to develop
3. Make the workers loyal towards their organisation
4. Provide expertise, skills, knowledge and experience to make workers learn without fear and hesitation
5. Encourage free communication
6. Develop employee potential to an extent where they need no supervision
7. Cooperate with other supervisors
8. Prove a good link between the management and workers
9. Solve personal problems of his/her subordinates to the extent possible
10. Maintain discipline
11. Correct the mistakes of his/her subordinates
12. Explore new fields of knowledge
13. Introduce new, useful and scientific methods of production and administration
14. Have a clear understanding about his/her plan of action
15. Know his/her job, duties, responsibilities, authority, accountability and so on
16. Divide responsibilities and duties to his/her subordinates rationally and scientifically
17. Listen and look into the grievance of his/her subordinates
18. Delegate authority and win their confidence.
The role of supervisors tells us little about the broad aspects of supervision or those factors that govern effective supervisory performance. Research in supervisory performance has indicated the following factors describing the performance of the best supervisor.
(1) Favourable Work Climate:
The best supervisor creates and maintains high performance standards under congenial work atmosphere. He goal oriented and strives to attain expected results by adopting the right type of leadership to inspire confidence and voluntary discipline from his people. Favourable work climate can secure acceptance of his authority voluntarily from his people so that obedience and loyalty can be easily secured from workers.
(2) Personal Maturity and Sensitiveness:
The best supervisor acquires personal maturity and emotional stability as well as empathy, i.e., sensitiveness to the feelings of others and capacity to understand feelings and emotions of those working under his command. He develops a knack of saying the right thing at the right time, does not lose control even under pressure or tension and evinces a good sense of humour.
(3) Human Relations Specialist:
The best supervisor is a practitioner of industrial psychology. He recognises individual differences as well as group mentality and keeps interpersonal relations harmonious. As a leader of his section, he has to capitalise human emotions, sentiments, and attitudes for maximum productivity without sacrificing employee satisfaction.
In practice he has to compromise and ensure acceptable productivity and acceptable morale or employee satisfaction. Supervisors of high productivity sections do recognise that productivity is accomplished by people and not merely by procedures, policies and controls. In other words, employee- centred approach in supervision need not imply a lack of concern about productivity.
A production-oriented supervisor tends to supervise closely, that is, in terms of specific procedures and schedules to be followed rather than in terms of goals to be achieved through team work. Research has proved that general supervision adopted by employee-centred supervisor can have much higher productivity. This means, human relations play a significant role in productivity.
The best supervisor tries to consider each person’s strength and weaknesses and how men work together before he makes any job assignments. Whenever possible, the supervisor assigns to a person a job he likes best.
(4) Technical Job Knowledge:
The best supervisor is technically competent. He has sufficient knowledge and information to understand any technical problem quickly and to devise the best workable solution. He gets the job done easily.
(5) Self-Development and Subordinate Development:
The effective supervisor is deeply interested in the development of human resources. He gives equal emphasis on his personal growth as well as on the growth of his subordinates. He tries to make assignments of jobs interesting and challenging to his subordinates. Purposeful duties create interest and vitality in the work and offer job satisfaction to employees. Challenging work helps advancement of subordinates.
(6) Knowledge and Execution of Company Plans and Policies:
The best supervisor knows fully the plans and policies of management and he executes them thoroughly. He also keeps up with changes in corporate policies and procedures and gives full information of such changes to his subordinates.
Requisite qualities for effective supervision are:
i. Tact and discretion,
ii. Social skills,
iii. Technical competence,
viii. Communication skills,
ix. Teaching and guiding ability and
x. Strong common sense.
The employee-centred supervisor in all functional areas of business as a first-line manager is expected to perform following activities to secure higher productivity with employee satisfaction-
i. Organise work and allot assignments to each employee;
ii. Hear and redress grievances and complaints;
iii. Recommend promotions, transfer, pay increases;
iv. Enforce rules and regulations with equity and justice;
v. Keep subordinates well informed;
vi. Keep subordinates posted about their progress;
vii. Give people tools and materials; and
viii. Planning, directing motivating and controlling responsibilities.
Supervision – Span of Supervision: Meaning, Guidelines and Kinds
Span of supervision means the number of subordinates whom a supervisor can competently direct, guide and control. If he is tasked to supervise a large number of subordinates doing a number of different or unrelated jobs, it will naturally place him under heavy mental and physical strain.
For example, if a supervisor has a large number of subordinates, engaged in a large number of unrelated jobs, the following effects are bound to be felt:
(a) Lack of proper communication with subordinates.
(b) Indifference to ideas, suggestions and grievances of subordinates.
(c) A feeling among subordinates that their supervisor does not wield enough influence with his superior.
(d) Frequent clash of views between supervisor and his superior.
1. A manager is a human being with natural limitations as regards the time and energy he can devote to the activities falling under his supervision.
2. There is also limitation as regards the multiple complex jobs that he can effectively supervise.
3. Given his limited time and energy, long hours of strenuous work involved in effective supervision may affect his physical and mental health.
Guidelines for evolving the optimum span of supervision are:
i. Managers at higher level in the management pyramid or hierarchy should have a span of three to seven operating subordinates.
ii. For first-line supervisors or managers of routine activities the optimum span of supervision may be from fifteen to twenty employees.
iii. Several points are considered while having a wise decision on the span of supervision-
(a) Variety and importance of activities supervised,
(b) Other duties in addition to supervision.
(c) Stability of operations or lack of it.
(d) Capacity of subordinates and degree of delegation. Capable subordinates and a high degree of delegation may permit the chief executive to have a wider span of control,
(e) Relative importance of supervisory pay roll.
It is not easy to pick up an ideal span of control. It depends on a number of considerations. However, it is not that difficult to evaluate the strong and weak points of each type of supervision span to know what span of supervision will be ideal for an organization.
If a number of different and unrelated jobs are placed under a single manager for supervision, it will indeed become too difficult for him to manage and control all of them equally efficiently. He will face this problem even if the jobs are of an identical nature.
F.W. Taylor, widely regarded as the father of Scientific Management, introduced a new pattern of supervision. Functional supervision is based on the assumption that a foreman cannot deal with all the technical problems which come up in a day’s work.
So, Taylor divided the foreman’s job into a number of different functions and provided a separate supervisor for each function. Thus, under functional supervision, operating workers have five supervisors, four of them being responsible for planning, and one “gang boss” to look after execution.
In addition, there are clerks to look after the administrative work that goes with the activity of production.
But functional supervision is beset with many problems. Because there are several supervisors, each having authority over the same group of subordinates and each supervisor holding them accountable for jobs performed by them individually, misunderstandings among supervisor are bound to crop up. There will also be differences among them as regards job-specifications and timeline for completion of jobs.
Under line and staff supervision, there is only one supervisor in charge of a particular group of subordinates. But he is aided and advised by specialists (staff executives) in various fields. Staff executives do not carry any authority and cannot give orders to subordinates, i.e., operative workers. They can only offer advice to line supervisors who may or may not accept it.
This kind of supervision has a number of plus points. First, operative workers are only accountable to a single supervisor, so there is no multiplicity of command. Second, the line supervisor can benefit from the expert advice of staff executives who are specialists in their respective fields of work. Last, the supervisor, being the man on the spot, is under no obligation to accept the advice offered by specialists.
But its main demerit is that it does not give due importance to specialists who are given casual treatment.
In a tall and narrow structure of organization, there are too many links in the chain of authority. This creates problems in respect of communication, decision-making and human relations. A lot of time is spent on relaying messages which, in any case, may take long to reach the subordinates concerned.
Multiplicity of levels also demoralizes supervisors because they have no say in decision-making. Workers also do not view it with favour because while they are denied recognition for good work done by them, they are promptly held accountable for below-standard performance.
This kind of organization is the best for ensuring balanced supervision. Under it, the man at the top has a number of deputies, each of whom looks after a particular activity or department. Such span of supervision gives the organization chart a flattened or “spread out” appearance.
Supervision – 5 Important Principles as Suggested by the Psychologist Blum
The Psychologist Blum has suggested the following principles of supervision:
(1) Never Be an Autocrat:
While doing supervision work never behaves like an autocrat because this is self-defeating.
(2) Listen Carefully to Your Subordinates:
Supervisor must be a good listener. He must listen carefully to everything told to him by his subordinates. He must accord full opportunity to the workers to present their case.
(3) Never Decide Anything in a Hurried Way:
It is a very rash approach to form an opinion about anybody hurriedly after a casual glance or a brief hearing, as most of the complaints may not be genuine. But some may be so and if they are not removed the morale of the workers in the organisation may suffer.
(4) Do Not Enter into Arguments with Subordinates:
Under no circumstances should the superior indulge in argument with his subordinates, because, if he fails to persuade or convince by his arguments, he is liable to issue orders to vindicate his point of view. This will create frustration and sense of insecurity among the workers. A good leader should not argue but listen carefully and issue orders only after careful listening.
Supervision – 3 Types of Supervisory Techniques: Democratic or Consultative, Autocratic and Free-Rein Technique
According to R. Likert- “There is no one best way to supervise. Supervisory practices that are effective in some situations yield unsatisfactory results in others.”
Indeed supervision is individual trait and wisdom. Techniques are developed by the supervisor himself in a given situation. His techniques differ from situation to situation, from work to work, from individual to individual, from group to group and from organisation to organisation. Under these circumstances it is difficult to adjudge one of the three as ‘best’.
There are mainly three types of supervisory techniques, which are as follows:
1. Democratic or Consultative Technique:
This technique is based on the democratic principles of supervision and leadership. Under this technique, the advice of the workers should be taken on all important matters. The objective of the technique is to give chance to workers to suggest solutions to various problems related to company, and if these suggestions are appropriate and useful, then they should be taken into consideration.
Thus, workers are instigated to give suggestions and advice. It makes workers feel their importance in their organisation. Their original thinking process is awakened and they work with more enthusiasm and interest and feel that the supervisor is helpful in their development and progress. This is an employee-centred supervisory style, giving importance to the needs and motives of the employees. It has a positive impact on their behaviour and efforts.
2. Autocratic Technique:
According to this technique, all rights are centred in the supervisor, and his/her orders are strongly obeyed. He/she fully controls his/her subordinates. While the workers tend to be unfaithful and undisciplined, this technique is used. In such circumstances, all acts of workers are controlled by the supervisor. Generally, nowadays, this technique is not used as it is based on time-worn Theory X of motivation.
3. Free-Rein Technique:
This is just opposite of the autocratic technique. Herein, the supervisor gives complete freedom to workers to work and after seeing their abilities develops them. It can be said as a ‘laissez-faire’ policy also.
This should be carefully understood that the supervisor should not depend on a single technique. As circumstances permit, techniques should be changed or adjusted. There cannot be one best technique of supervision for all.
In the words of R. Likert, ‘There is no one best way to supervise. Supervisory practices that are effective in some situations yield to unsatisfactory results in others’.
Supervision – 5 Important Factors Affecting Supervision: Human Relation Skill, Technical and Managerial Knowledge, Technical and Managerial Knowledge and a Few Others
Factor # 1. Human Relation Skill:
This includes the following:
(a) Guiding the working force
(b) Instructing them, and
(c) Inspiring them for better performance
The supervisor has to depend on the decisions of top and middle-order management for the following:
(iv) Determinants of human relation.
Without the guidelines the supervisor remains handicapped. In modern set up he can take routine decisions within the framework provided for the purpose. But he cannot make a decision without consulting his superiors in middle order and top management. He is the person to toe the lines as suggested by his superior though he is directly responsible to get the work done. But he is the person who is in direct touch with his men. He watches them working.
He knows their emotions, feelings and sentiments, notes them and shares them on the spot. Therefore, in these matters he is left with no alternative but to take quick decision before any sparking situation arises. He is the best judge of human relations. He has to apply his skill, use his training, draw lessons from his experiences and handle the situation accordingly. So far as human relation is concerned he is a master of skill.
Factor # 2. Technical and Managerial Knowledge:
The guidance and instructions are largely based on the technical knowledge and the managerial acumen. These help the supervisor in serving his organisation well. His supervision capabilities are increased by adequate training and sufficient technical and managerial skill.
Factor # 3. The Position and Status in the Organisation:
The supervisor’s ability of supervising his workmen depends on his position and status in the organisation. This position may either be delegated or may be acquired. The supervisor can improve his position provided a status worth his responsibilities is given to him. This is fundamentally important and no organisation can afford to ignore it.
Factor # 4. Improved Upward Good Relations with His Workmen:
A supervisor is well heard and given responsibility by his supervisors at all levels of the management. His suggestions are received with appreciation and due attention is paid to it. His adverse reports as well as appreciation’s are equally responded to and action is taken accordingly. He must have good relations with his superiors by way of encouragement. This helps him in establishing good relations with his workmen.
Factor # 5. A Supervisor Must Get Relief from Non-Supervisory Duties:
Submission of reports, returns etc. is not the job of the supervisor. Job training too is not his duty. Therefore, a supervisor must be free from all duties except supervision and its related functions. If he is free from all these then he may devote more time with his workmen. The supervisor should be allowed to concentrate on directing functions for which he should be given sufficient authority under the basic norms of management – ‘Power with people.’ This would ensure the maximum supervision from which results can be generally expected.
Supervision – Levels and Problems
There are three levels of management, namely top management, middle-level management and supervisory (lower-level) management. Supervisors belong to the third level of management (a first-line supervisor is one who is just above the rank and file workers engaged in production).
Supervisors first receive instructions from the middle-level management and according to that take work from workers.
The main job of supervisors is to manage workers at the bottom level of an organisation. They have to head a non-management family. A supervisor has to interact in authority relationship with two groups, namely workers (his/her subordinates) and managers (his/her superiors). Supervisors are linchpins. Both upward and downward communications between the management and the workers flow through them.
Creation of levels of supervision will in any case be a costly exercise. It may become costlier if additional levels of supervision are created. It will require hiring of additional supervisors that means increase in administrative costs. Also, it will necessitate greater co-ordination and control of work at different work centers.
All of this will result in substantial expenditure both in terms of money as well as effort. In any case, most organizations regard expenditure on levels of supervision as unproductive, therefore unnecessary.
A large number of supervision levels will create problems of easy and smooth communication. If there are too many links in the chain of authority from the chief executive to the shop-floor, the supervisor is bound to feel lost. Communication of objectives, plans and policies will become difficult, and most time will be spent on transmitting messages only.
Increase in the levels of supervision also adversely affects the decision-making process. Transmission of decisions to supervisors will become time-consuming because they are away, sometimes far away, from the place where decisions are made. All this has a demoralizing effect on supervisors and their operative subordinates. They rightly feel that their efficient performance may not get due recognition, but delay in performance on their part will invite quick rebuke and punishment.
Too many levels of supervision contribute to confusion and delay in planning and control functions. Even first-rate plans designed at the top level lose focus because of their sub-division into workable plans in the course of transmission to lower levels.
The same is the case with the function of control. Due to lack of good planning and communication, control of work at various levels becomes difficult and ineffective.
Supervision – 5 Main Requisites of Effective Supervision: Skill in Leading, Skill in Instructing, Human Orientation, Technical Knowledge and Knowledge of Rules
Supervision deals with instructing, guiding and inspiring human beings towards greater level of performance. The effectiveness of supervision is determined by the degree of performance extracted from the subordinates. Effective supervision gives proper guidance to the subordinates and motivates them properly for the achievement of organisational objective.
Following are the essentials or requisites of effective supervision:
1. Skill in Leading:
A supervisor should be a leader in the true sense of the term. As a leader, he will be able to guide the subordinates and promote harmonious relationship among them.
2. Skill in Instructing:
Every supervisor issues orders and instructions to his subordinates. He requires communication skill. A good supervisor should be able to communicate clearly with the subordinates and issue them orders and instructions in such a way that the subordinates feel like following them.
3. Human Orientation:
A supervisor should treat his subordinates as human beings. As far as possible, he should adopt a helping attitude towards his subordinates.
4. Technical Knowledge:
A supervisor must have the knowledge of machines, equipment’s, tools, processes and materials that are under his charge.
5. Knowledge of Rules:
A supervisor should be familiar with the organisational policies and the rules and regulations which are applicable to his concern.
On the basis of the research studies conducted by the University of Michigan, Harrell has mentioned the following four supervisory practices which are consistently related to the productivity of a group –
1. Differentiation of supervisory role – More productive supervisors perform functions more associated with leadership. Supervisors who spend most of their time in supervising have higher morale and higher productivity in their work groups.
2. Closeness of supervision – High-producing supervisors generally do not supervise as closely as low-producing supervisors. Close supervision may have negative response so far as morale and motivation of the employees are concerned.
3. Employee orientation – High-producing supervisors take more personal interest in their subordinates—their training, promotion, motivation and so on.
4. Group cohesiveness – High-producing supervisors believe in high group cohesiveness. High group cohesiveness coupled with employees’ confidence in their supervisor leads to more production.