Unfortunately supervisors fail for many reasons. By developing an understanding of these reasons, a supervisor can avoid many of them.

  1. Inability or unwillingness to delegate work. This is a frequent cause of supervisory failure. Most supervisors are promoted from operative jobs and are accustomed to doing the physical work themselves. Supervisors are generally required to have technical skills in the jobs they are managing. Unfortunately, too many supervisors think that the technical skills alone are sufficient for success. However, human relations and administrative skills are also needed for success.
  2. Improper use of authority. Some supervisors let their newfound authority go to their heads. It is sometimes difficult to remember that the use of authority alone does not get the support and cooperation of the employees. It is just as important to learn when not to use authority as to learn when to use it.
  3. Trying to continue to be one of the gang. After being promoted into supervision, it is important to remember that a person is no longer one of the gang. Being a supervisor may require decisions that are not always popular. Thus, the supervisor must learn to maintain a balance between good human relations and being one of the gang. Because supervisors are the connecting link between other levels of management and the operative employees, they must learn to represent both groups.
  4. Setting a poor example. A supervisor must always remember that the work group looks to the supervisor to set the example. Employees expect fair and equitable treatment from their supervisor. Unfortunately, too many supervisors play favorites and treat employees inconsistently. Government legislation has attempted to reduce this practice somewhat, but it is still a common problem.
  5. A lack of desire for the job. Unfortunately, many people are promoted into supervision merely because of their technical skills, not because of their desire to be a supervisor. Regardless of one`s technical skills, the desire to be a supervisor is necessary for success. Generally, this desire encourages a person to develop the other skills necessary in supervision-human relations skill and administrative skills.

These five reasons are certainly not the only ones that cause supervisory failure, but they represent some of the most common ones. Certainly the organization itself may be at fault if it does not provide for the proper selection and training of supervisory personnel.

Indicate whether each of the following statements is true or false by writing "T" or "F."

  1. Authority by the supervisor is perceived largely as the prerogative to give people direct orders.
  2. A supervisor being held responsible for certain actions is also accountable for the results of these actions.
  3. Today`s supervisor commonly has the responsibility to hire, fire, set conditions of work, and to make unchallenged decisions.
  4. Inability or unwillingness to delegate work is a common reason for supervisory failure.


  1. False. The current view is that authority involves influencing people by direction, guidance, help, correction, and stimulation.
  2. True. By definition supervisory responsibility is being accountable for results.
  3. False. Today many staff specialists are involved at the supervisory level, and the formal authority of the supervisor is limited in a number of areas.
  4. True. New supervisors are especially reluctant to delegate. This happens because they have been accustomed to doing everything themselves in their previous job.

Full course available on the App Store:

for iPhone:

for iPad:

for Mac:

Web Version of course will be available soon.