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  • MaryJo McGrath

Is Fear Holding You Back as a Supervisor and Leader?

Updated: Feb 26

Less than 5% of any workforce is disciplined by its supervisor. Often the other 95% is left out in the cold in terms of quality written feedback and coaching for growth and for acknowledgment. The common belief is that if you are not disciplining an employee you have no right to communicate in writing regarding performance other than through the evaluation process. That is a myth!


As a manager, one of the most powerful ways to expand your effectiveness is to take on growing and developing the 95% through easy, constructive communication, both verbal and in writing, that you haven’t been getting to previously. However, the current culture is anything put into writing is “bad news.” As said, managers feel limited in providing feedback to the use of the evaluation instrument which is usually an annual ritual that everyone hates.


In the past, most supervisors have operated with an all or nothing mindset. In that mindset, supervisory communication comes in only two flavors:

  1. say nothing and avoid confrontation, or

  2. rely on an authoritative, disciplinary-type delivery that causes a cascading backlash of employee grievances and strife.


Any real substance – the middle ground where constructive communication occurs - is lost in this tug of war. Without the middle ground of supervisory communication, it is impossible for mangers to do their real job, which is to support the growth and development of their employees through effective supervision. The cost to managers and supervisors is that they forfeit their leadership and their reputation for being effective bosses.


Why haven’t most administrators been providing real-time feedback regarding job performance on a regular basis before now? Fear! Let’s take a look.


Most people assume that the bulk of a supervisor’s authority is subject to union or employee negotiation and limits. But that assumption is false. Most supervision and evaluation – the actual guts of communication between supervisor and employee – is not negotiable, only the procedures that will be followed in the evaluation process and disciplinary matters are.


What we’ll call “terms and conditions of employment” are negotiated items like wages, hours, benefits, evaluation procedures (not substance), as well as representation in disciplinary matters. This is the union’s or the employees’ associations purview to negotiate within. But the remainder of authority and responsibility is left to “management’s rights and responsibility to supervise.”


Why is this good news? You have a much broader arena within which to make a difference in the performance of your employees than you think. We call that arena “Constructive Communication and Supervision.”


Do you want to reclaim your rights and perform your responsibilities? The solution is to develop your capacity to communicate and relate effectively on a regular basis – to make the most of the wide-open range of middle ground that supervision encompasses.


Reading this article is an important first step because you’re confronting your false assumptions and realizing that you have more authority and responsibility than you had thought. Now it’s time to take on growing and developing the 95% through automatic and constructive communication that strengthens your relationship with the people you supervise and contributes to a stronger more productive workforce and a healthy and satisfying work environment.


Our next blog will address the "fear factor," both from the perspective of the employee and the supervisor. This fear factor leads to "Say Nothing." Say nothing. Kill!" We call it "Inarticulitis."


Our McGrath SUCCEED with TRUE-SPEAKⓇ training program provides K-12

school districts and businesses with a framework for principle-based thinking and communication that is legally fit and educationally sound. It creates a new paradigm for effective communication, supervision and discipline. Click here to learn more.


Mary Jo McGrath, JD and Billie-Jo Grant, PhD are nationally recognized experts in education.  They have trained more than 250,000 school district administrators and employees nationwide in how to have schools be safer, more effective learning and work environments.




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