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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Me And My Superman Cape

I've recently had several conversations with others who have had the experience of frequently supervising others. There has been one common thread in those conversations: Why the hell did we ever sign on for such a largely thankless task? If anyone of you has found a great deal of joy supervising others, I would sincerely like to know your secret. After 35 years doing so, I am glad to shed my Superman cape, once and for all.

Supervision hasn't been without it's rewards. In my last full time position, one of my direct reports gave me credit for "inspiring" her to finish her Bachelor's Degree; I was flattered. And, three people I supervised years ago showed up for my retirement party; I was honored. In my years as a retail store manager, I enjoyed getting manager-trainees who worked for me ready for their own stores. Developing people and watching them grow has been enjoyable in every supervisory job I've had.

As gratifying as all that has been, the stress of having to deliver critical feedback at performance reviews, the tact and attention required to attend to fragile egos or low self-esteem, and the staggering number of personal problems people bring to work (and that you as their supervisor are dealing with in some way, often because those problems tend to affect the other people those employees interact with) tip the scale significantly in the other direction. Don't take my word for it. Talk to others who have done this for a long time and ask them if they're not exhausted by it. Better yet, ask them if they had to do it all over again, would they? I would guess many, like me, would be happy to shed their Superman capes.  


  1. supervising,coaching,mentoring was exhausting for you because you cared about the feelings of the individual. If you treated it just as part of the job then it probably wouldn't have drained you.
    Disciplining your kids is sort of like supervising them and that is certainly draining but it is because you love and care about your kids.
    Supervision (and mentoring, too) has to be done with great detachment or else you will have many nights of tossing and turning.

  2. PS: I think you hit the jackpot with this post. Were you going for the longest sentence in the history of blogging? 77 words in one sentence caused me to have to read it over several times. And yes, once I figured why I had to reread this, I counted the words to be sure. I'm sorry but the English teacher in me raises its ugly head from time to time.

  3. Great parallel between parenting and supervision and how both are draining. And I agree if I didn't care as much (as a sup) it likely wouldn't have been as hard. As to the 2nd "English Teacher" comment, guilty as charged. But, I did re-read it and was OK with a very long sentence. Mea culpa.

  4. The superperson cape is a wonderful analogy. I agree that I wouldn't wish to do it again. At the same time I would NOT trade away having done it. Even though the scales seem tipped to the "negative", I look back and can see a number of signifigant shifts that would not have occurred absent having managed. But like being a parent you need to be younger and filled with energy to carry on.