You've finally landed that dream job, only to find out that your supervisor is not living up to her job description. Unfortunately, many people ascend to the position of supervisor simply based upon seniority or because they possess an advanced degree, and not because they have the qualities that make for a strong supervisor. As an employee, knowing how to spot a weak supervisor can save you a lot of time and frustration.
To do his job correctly, a supervisor needs to be able to supervise, which means he must be physically present and accessible to his employees. If your supervisor is unavailable four out of five workdays -- whether due to schedule, travel or family commitments -- he is not able to fulfill his most basic responsibility, which is supervision. Your supervisor should be not only physically present but also make time to meet one-on-one with you at a predetermined interval to check in on your short- and long-term goals.
Supervision is a time when you can receive feedback on your job performance and seek professional guidance around specific concerns. It is not an informal chat session about the weather, weekend activities or honeymoon plans. While a balanced conversation will always have a friendly and informal lead-in, if your supervisor seems more interested in telling you about the great shoes she bought at the Macy's clearance sale or gossiping about office politics than addressing your concerns about your job, your supervisor is too chatty and you'll want to do something about it.
Poor Role Model
Your supervisor, as your superior, needs to model exemplary employee behavior and be a role model to his employees. This involves demonstrating professionalism in every sense of the word. If your supervisor has poor boundaries, uses vulgarity, dresses inappropriately, fails to arrive on time to meetings, lacks follow-through, transgresses workplace policies or badmouths his superiors, he is not being the role model that you need.
Beats around the Bush
Part of your supervisor's job is to provide you with direct feedback on your performance and suggest ways that you might improve. While you may not always enjoying hearing the truth, it is your supervisor's job to deliver it, unpolished, so that you may mold yourself into the kind of employee you and she both know you can be. For this reason, you want a supervisor who knows how to cut to the chase, and who will provide you with honest feedback without skirting around the issue. A supervisor who beats around the bush, who sugarcoats his critiques to the point of complimenting you, is not really benefiting either of you.
Cannot Admit Ignorance
We've all met people who pretend to know everything. They're not hard to spot. While a supervisor benefits from being "in the know" about certain things, a strong supervisor will also be able to admit when she's wrong, when she's made a mistake or when she doesn't know the answer to your question. If your supervisor is able to be honest when she doesn't have the guidance you're looking for, you can be sure that when she does give advice that it comes from a place of true knowing and not pretense.
Parker Janney is a web developer and writer based in Philadelphia. With a Master of Arts in international politics, she has been ghostwriting for several underground publications since the late 2000s, with works featured in "Virtuoso," the "Philadelphia Anthropology Journal" and "Clutter" magazine.