Meaningful Management Supervision in Organisations

Supervision within management is widely understood as the process of being ‘in charge’ of employees, ‘looking after’ their productivity and making sure they ‘do as required’ in their roles. However, I would also contend that supervision as the professional skill of ‘taking an overview’ in a relational practice sense has a huge role to play in enhancing both organisational and management performance.

Professional supervision emerged as requirement for professional practice in therapeutic areas – part of licence to practice – avoidance of maleficence in client work, and to improve/professionalise the service offering.

3 components to process – NFR model – learning, practice, support – need to develop and support self before can help others do this – and do have to do this within certain frames of reference (processes and systems)

Process extended into other relational practice areas – I connected with the concept within the context of career guidance, and through front line work with employment officers I saw first hand how it is vital to support providers in their difficult emotional work with the unemployed.

Management is also a relational practice – need to care for direct reports, and they in turn rely on managers – it is a form of emotional labour too. Of course, orgs use coaching and consultancy to get the NF effect in greater/lesser amounts, but R component is not catered for – and it is perhaps the most vital to keep staff engaged, encouraged/happy in their work and most importantly productive.

Again, though, we need to be sure that the manager develops and feels supported/comfortable working within their normative processes with their staff (e.g. PMS), so they can properly support their staff. Is there not just as much of a case for their emotional practice to have the benefit of supervision support.

There is also an addition beneficial effect of management supervision for the organisation. Through application within counselling orgs, Sue Copeland noticed an organisational effect, in terms of parallel process, where supervisor-employee interactions turned out to mirror client-employee interactions, and resulted in the illumination of specific key cultural themes. For example, if highly action or results orientated workplace for counsellor, they would mirror this by pushing strongly clients for movement or outcomes, which may not have been in the client’s own interest. In effect, she found that the organisational culture was impacting strongly at the customer interface. Supervision can raise these issues into organisational visibility and managers collectively can assess if or how they’d like to develop their culture to ensure that their interaction process at the customer interface has a positive and strategic impact on the company’s progress.

So the implantation of management supervision processes will have three key effects, 1) it will support the development of more professional and productive managers within the organisation, 2) it will improve the professionalism and productivity of staff/workers, and 3) it will generate powerful organisational development opportunities if attention is paid to the emergent key themes at an interactional and customer interface level.