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What do supervisors want from their jobs?

What do supervisors want from their jobs?

Have you ever stopped to think what you want from your job? In training conferences, I asked 88 supervisors from a variety of fields to rank the following job factors in order of importance to them: a good boss, good salary, security, chance for promotion, and interesting work.

While the combined percentages of first and second priority responses for interesting work and good salary were very close, as Figure I shows, the percentage of first priority responses for interesting work was much higher. This outcome was somewhat surprising as supervisors had stated verbally that a good salary was their primary reason for working.

Here is an assessment of the factors supervisors rate as most important in their jobs and how they influence job satisfaction.

Interesting work. You may feel like one supervisor who complained, "I'm bored! I get tired of doing the same thing day in and day out.' After five years, she feels many tasks are repetitive and routine. Her job rarely seems challenging and stimulating.

Attitudes about a job, rather than the work itself, often cause boredom of this kind. Avoiding the following destructive attitudes can make work more interesting.

My job has become less rewarding. A supervisor may be like the man who married a ravishing beauty and became disenchanted as she aged. Instead of shifting emphasis to aspects of the job that strengthen with age, such as relationships with co-workers and comfort in familiar surroundings, the supervisor focuses on the negative aspects of the job.

My duties are limited by my job description. A job description is at best a rough guideline to the scope of your responsibilities. Within any job description, there is considerable opportunity for broadening your job. By interpreting the description narrowly, you restrict yourself unnecessarily. With imagination, even the dullest job description can be enriched.

People in higher jobs are happier than I am. This is an illusion. As a matter of fact, promotion can be the surest route to unhappiness. The new position may call for sacrifices that you are not willing to make. It also may tax your capabilities and shake your self-confidence.

By not advancing, you may save yourself many headaches. Besides, those in higher jobs get bored too, especially as the luster fades from their shiny new job assignment.

Good salary. The other top priority of supervisors is high pay. Let's examine key pay policy issues that affect supervisors' job satisfaction.

Equitability. Although many labs are secretive about salary levels, employees have a way of finding out how much co-workers are making. They "keep score' by continually comparing pay for comparable work assignments.

A red-faced supervisor who confronts the laboratory manager and says, "Ellen is making more money than I am for the same job,' is concerned with equitability. Probably the supervisor has mentally compared skills, responsibilities, performance, and effort, and has concluded that he or she is "as good as' or "better than' Ellen.

Usually, such comparisons are based on filtered information and are distorted by personal bias. Most of the time we look better to ourselves than to others, especially since we tend to rationalize our shortcomings.

Personal needs. Supervisors who tell their boss, "I've got to get more money,' know their personal needs. Maybe they have had unusual expenses or mismanaged their finances. But does their financial need justify a salary increase?

Some supervisors feel that the only way they can respond to financial pressure is to get another job that pays more. Unfortunately, they do not consider the long-term consequences of changing jobs and allowing a short-term financial problem to compromise their careers.

Automatic/standard salary increases. Although many laboratories claim to give merit salary increases, the salary increases are actually automatic and standard. Employees know that unless they have fouled up badly in the past year, they will get a salary increase of around 5 per cent. Such an automatic increase policy may lead employees to conclude, "It doesn't pay to do a good job.'

Minimums and maximums. Job evaluation is a common practice in many laboratories. It leads to the establishment of minimum and maximum salary ranges for each job. However, employees often disagree with the minimums and maximums that are established and feel they are locked in by them. This leads to the common complaint, "Is that the most I can make?'

Spread. Employees are particularly concerned about the spread between the salary levels of high performers and low performers. High performers expect a reasonable spread, while low performers feel they expend as much effort and resent an excessively large spread.

Market value. As employees master jobs, adding and developing skills, they increase their market value. Often, employers ignore this change in value. Employees call attention to it by alerting management to what they have learned in the job market: "Other places are paying more for the same job.'

A good boss. Supervisors are expected to create a motivating environment for their employees, but does higher management set a good example for its supervisory staff? Management may be guilty of deficiencies it would not tolerate from staff members. Here are some examples:

Management may be indecisive. Supervisors find it difficult to work for managers who cannot make up their minds.

Management may be unfair. At times, managers may not be fair in their criticism, workload distribution, salary administration, performance appraisal, or discipline.

Management may collapse under stress. Managers who cannot handle stress pass it on to their staff. When they overreact or panic, they leave supervisors leaderless just when direction and support are needed.

Management may not give positive reinforcement. Managers may unwittingly teach employees that it does not pay to be enthusiastic and committed to the job. They teach this discouraging lesson by failing to reinforce extra effort and initiative.

Job security. In most laboratories, work assignments change. Economic fluctuations, reorganizations, shifts involving key staff members, and variations in the laboratory's growth rate affect the workload and the demands made on the supervisors.

Some supervisors adapt to change easily. Others view any change in their work assignment as threatening. They fear they will no longer be able to handle the job and satisfy their management.

Chance for promotion. Most laboratories have a short chain of progression. The imbalance between promotional opportunities and the number of available, qualified employees is particularly noticeable for supervisory staff.

Also, the issue of qualification for promotion can become very heated if the performance appraisal is highly subjective and the criteria for promotion are poorly defined. For example, some managers advance supervisors whom they like and work well with, instead of matching an individual's qualifications with the requirements of the higher-level job. As a result, politically adept supervisors who have influential sponsors may advance faster than more qualified co-workers who are not sponsored.

In light of the preceding factors, supervisors should periodically take inventory of their jobs to confirm that they have plentiful sources of satisfaction in their daily work life. They should evaluate their work assignment, compensation, higher management, job security, and opportunities for promotion.

They should also consider ways to control their work day and environment. Instead of complaining about how bad things are, they should concentrate on taking positive actions that will make things better.

Supervisors cannot do much, if anything, to influence compensation, their boss's work style, laboratory policy and procedures, or other externals. However, they can exert the most important type of control--internal control-- within a work environment.

Whatever external environment we face, we can choose how to react to it. We can maintain a high level of personal satisfaction by adopting new values and modified personal wants that will help us adapt to any situation.

Table: Figure I How supervisors rank job factors
COPYRIGHT 1987 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Roseman, Ed
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Sep 1, 1987
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