The Supervisor Problem

finger pointing 1 - The Supervisor Problem


The Problem

Have you ever had a bad supervisor? If I was a betting person, I would bet that you have; and the odds would be in my favor! According to a recent report, only 10% of individuals in the workforce have the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) to be high performing supervisors. Unfortunately, many U.S. organizations make decisions about who will be hired or promoted into supervisor positions based on a practice that has proved to be highly ineffective. This practice involves hiring or promoting individuals into supervisory positions based on former non-related work experience, years of service, and/or a previous good performance in a non-supervisory position. However, just because an employee is an excellent sales person does not mean that s/he will be an excellent sales supervisor! The two positions often require a different set of KSAs.

The data indicate that more than any other group supervisors have the greatest impact and significant influence on employees’ workplace experiences, in both positive and negative ways. It is supervisors’ negative impact and influences that are of concern. Ill-prepared, unqualified supervisors are wreaking havoc on U.S. workplaces and workforces.

Why is There a Problem?

According to Jim Clifton, Chairman & CEO of Gallup, the selection and placement of supervisors is one of the most important decisions that organizations make. Yet, for some reason organizations often do not make the best supervisor placement decisions. Gallup’s recent study indicates that organizations fail to place the right person in supervisor positions 82% of the time. Yes, 82%! Unfortunately, the impact of these poor decisions are high. Bad supervisors cost U.S. organizations an estimated $319 – $398 BILLION dollars a year in lost productivity and customers/clients.   Losses that organizations can no longer afford if they expect to attract and retain top talent, create engaging and high performing workplaces, and remain competitive. 

Clifton states:

Businesses must first understand that as goes the talent of America’s 10 million supervisors and managers, so goes the engagement, inspiration, and effectiveness of 100 million U.S. employees. Success or failure starts with the front-line manager.


All organizations have a supervisor problem.  Its just a matter of to what extent.  So, how much in lost productivity and profit is your organization losing because of your bad supervisors?

In the next blog post I will share best practices for managing your supervisor problem. If you would like to be notified by email of our next blog post sign up here.  To request our free white paper on The Supervisor Problem and What to Do About It, click here.


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