By Frank Burgos
I recall reading several years ago that the top three most stressful jobs, at the time, were:
Effective supervision relies on special skills we don’t necessarily learn at press. They are “people” skills, not technical. A good supervisor is a good listener, offers constructive criticism, trains employees, and manages processes. He or she is calm, self-confident, optimistic, honest, self-disciplined and self-motivated. They can also take constructive criticism. They’re tough, but fair.
Not all good press operators will end up supervising a pressroom. Not all good press operators should. Yet, one of the most common misconceptions I hear in a pressroom when a supervisor position opens is that the best operator should get the job. Sorry. Not always. Not usually.
Now, for the operator that comes to the table with the right stuff for supervising, there may still be some hurdles. Here are a couple to remember, if you plan to be a supervisor, someday:
Fraternizing with your coworkers, while an operator, can end up causing you challenges if you get the supervisor position. You may have socialized with peers after work, spoken poorly about management and ownership with others, or otherwise have compromised the credibility and respect you’ll need to lead the people you’ve fraternized with.
If you have not been professional by focusing on your work and work habits, the transition can be painful, if not impossible. It is difficult to supervise folks when you’ve been fraternizing and otherwise not comporting yourself with the demeanor of a supervisor. They’ll remember “the old you” and you will, too. Leading and disciplining them will be tough, tough, tough.
Another hurdle can be your attendance. If your attendance record is less than pristine, you may get passed up, even if you otherwise qualify to supervise. Supervisors are needed on site, every day, the whole shift, and should be ready to stay late, or come in early, if necessary, especially during off shifts. If your record doesn’t prove you’re flexible and dependable, forget it. The company will be better off with a less competent, but more punctual supervisor. Supervision is serious business; only the serious need apply.
There are many potential challenges and pitfalls to becoming an effective, confident, happy supervisor. I wanted to share a couple that stand out in my mind because most things one can learn or recover from, but personal behavior and reputation are a different matter. If you have your sights on supervision, keep your nose clean, so to speak, and demonstrate a superior work ethic.
Being a supervisor and growing as a supervisor is a unique and enriching and rewarding job. If you’ve done it well, for a while, you’ll automatically be respected wherever you go, just because of the way you carry yourself. You’ll feel different. You’ll feel like a person worthy of the responsibility of leading people and helping them grow. I can think of few greater rewards.
So, go ahead and be a supervisor; but be ready.