In my very limited experience overseeing a staff, I’ve noticed that when I hire students, they seem a little unfamiliar with how a healthy 1-to-1 supervisor/employee relationship should work. Or at least, how I’d like it to work. So I’m writing this list to help me gather my thoughts, and maybe set up a training document to avoid this confusion in the future. Hopefully, some young professionals (jesus am I already disqualifying myself from that category?) will find this helpful as they step into the working world for the first time. So, let’s get started, shall we?
- You were hired because I need help. This means that while I’ll try to start off slow, you are expected to eventually be capable of handling your assigned tasks independently. Someday, I want to be able to take a vacation, knowing that the work is safe in your hands.
- Yes I am testing you, but don’t stress about it. While it’s true that everything I ask you to do is a test to see what you know and what you can handle, that isn’t because I want you to look stupid or fail. I’m determining how many of my responsibilities I can safely entrust with you, as well as evaluating where you need more guidance and supervision. I can’t teach you until I know what you need to learn. With that in mind, and this is the most important thing…
- If you don’t know, ask. If you’ve already been told, but aren’t 100% sure, ask. If you are nervous about something, ask. If you are just curious, ask! As human beings, there is a lot we don’t know. That’s totally okay! Admitting ignorance is the quickest way to remedy it. Also, I’m not a NASA mission control operator. By that I mean, sometimes my instructions aren’t perfectly clear the first time. If you don’t understand, ask me to clarify. If there is any chance that you may make a mistake because you didn’t understand the instructions, drop what you are doing and ask me before moving forward. I promise to never pass judgement. Stopping to ask for help is always faster than making a mistake and having to start a task over from the beginning.
- I don’t know everything. While yes, I’ve spent years gathering experience and striving to do this job as efficiently and effectively as possible, when I say there isn’t a better way to do something, all that means is that I can’t think of a better way to do it. If you CAN, then I want to hear it. However…
- All opinions must be backed by supporting evidence. Ideas that don’t have supporting arguments go by a different name—beliefs—and our job doesn’t have much room for beliefs. Do you think a different font looks better on this layout? Cool, show me why. Do you think our visitors would prefer a different layout for this exhibit? Excellent, walk me through it. I’m very open to being wrong about almost anything, but your position must be defendable, or I will ignore it.
To summarize, I don’t expect my employees to be genius savants, but I do expect them to strive hard to eventually get close. I’ve got your back, and I’m here to catch you when you fall, but I ask that you learn from your mistakes with the hope that I’ll need to catch you less and less as we grow together.