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Are you a “Supervisor Sandwich”?

What is the “Supervisor Sandwich”? It’s that gooey place in the middle where most supervisors find themselves in their workplace human resource and safety programs.

In this sandwich analogy, the employer, owner, and senior management are the bread. They write the policies, set the rules, and demand adherence to the workplace programs and systems. This is what keeps the sandwich somewhat held together into a cohesive and filling meal. Our workers are like the sandwich meat. They fill up the sandwich and are obligated by law and by company requirements to follow the polices, rules and programs. Needless to say, we want that meat to stay within the bread. So where does that leave the supervisor? Right there in the middle. Sometimes it’s a gooey, soggy place to be.

Workers approach a supervisor with a personal issue, a conflict, a concern and often this is in conflict to Senior Leaderships practices or methods. In a “safe” supportive culture (the ideal workplace), the supervisor can confidently bring forth the issue and receive a civil, supportive response. But most of us in “middle management” suffer the rock and hard-place position. We empathize with the worker but are confident that the “boss” will not be happy, agree or be willing to meet in a compromise.

Are your supervisors in this position? Are your hundreds of policies, rules and stringent adherence to processes creating stress for your supervisors? There is a great opportunity, in most workplaces, to improve our employee level of job satisfaction merely by being open and receptive to concerns, suggestions, complaints and worker “asks”.

Do workers demand that the supervisor, if he really cares about the workers, will take their side and fight the battle with the “bosses”? If this does not occur, do the workers become frustrated? Does it lead to a loss in motivation and loss of productivity? Does the sandwich start to fall apart or does it become an unhealthy sandwich?

Often, at Dunk & Associates, we hear from supervisors their complaints that they are not paid enough and are told to just put up with being stuck in the middle. High stress levels have led to poor retention of ‘middle management” and supervisors for many companies. So, what can be done? Support your supervisorsand be open to meaningful dialogue. Senior management should directly respond to worker issues and not make the supervisor the “messenger” when the response is negative.

Not sure about how many supervisors feel like a “sandwich” in your workplace? Open a conversation; survey your supervisors, conduct interviews, and have an honest, truthful dialogue. Let your supervisors be a valuable and filling part of the meal. What you learn will not hurt you, but it will help you build competent, motivated and satisfied supervisors! So get started and create a delicious deluxe turkey sandwich on rye bread with bacon and avocado…instead of a soggy two-day old egg salad sandwich.

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