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How to understand the workstyle of your supervisor

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Your supervisor may have a penchant for cowboys boots and a laid back atmosphere
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First order of business: Figure out your supervisor's work style and adapt

Ideally, your work supervisor and you are two peas in a pod, with compatible personalities and similar work styles and approaches, but chances are the exact opposite occurs. It is imperative that you have a good working relationship with your supervisor, which can be achieved even if you are different as night and day.


The first order of business is for you to make a concerted effort to understand your supervisor work style. This does not necessarily mean that you have to like it but if you want to keep and excel at your job you will learn how to accommodate it and make the most of it.

The possibility that you are going to work, at some point, for someone whom you have very little in common with is very likely. That does not preclude you from forging a good working relationship and partnership with your manager. However, it is incumbent on you to make the move and adapt your style and responses to his or hers, which will improve your interactions and your work relationship.

Everyone has their own communications preferences and styles


You must quickly figure out what approach your boss takes and learn to accommodate it. For instance, your boss may make decisions on the fly, as he is dashing down the hallway, eager to get to the golf course. If you recognize that this is his pattern, accommodate it, even though it may be the polar opposite of how you go about making important decisions. Adapt to the fact that decisions are going to be made hurriedly and perhaps at the last minute and work around this. It will impact your schedule so adjust your schedule to accommodate the work demands that have been placed on you at the last minute. If you know that your supervisor tends to pile work on you in the eleventh hour, plan for it, know that it is coming, and this will help eliminate stress.

Some supervisors may leave long, complicated instructions in a voice mail, which you are expected to follow and execute. Even though you would prefer to receive the instructions in person or by email, if this is not the preferred modus operandi of your supervisor you must adjust and learn to do it her way because that is what she is expecting.

Some supervisors do not want to be involved in the nitty gritty daily problems that arise at work. This is a big-picture, hands-off supervisor work style. Make a point, early on, of figuring out if your supervisor wants to be apprised of the minutiae because she is a micro manager or if she does not want to be bothered with it, expecting you to handle it. If you keep bothering her with little things she is going to get annoyed. On the other hand, some supervisors want to know even the smallest details. If that is the type of boss you are working for, accommodate it, even if it drives you crazy.

If you know what is going to upset your supervisor, avoid these flash points. If you have to address certain issues with your supervisor that you know, in advance, will press his buttons be sensitive in your approach. The personality of your boss and your supervisor work style is not going to change, so you must learn to respond and react in a way that allows the two of you to have a good, working relationship and an open means of communication.

Supervisors have decidedly different styles and you never know who you are going to end up working for. Some supervisors are authoritarian supervisors and have a penchant for closely monitoring their employees. You may not like being under the microscope but if this is the style of your supervisor you are going to need to adjust to this approach.


There are supervisors who want to be liked and part of the crowd. This is considered the companionable type of supervision and it is based on establishing friendly relationships among all employees. This type of leadership can have its drawbacks. The supervisor who is intent on being liked may avoid confronting his employees when something goes wrong he does not want to confront or offend his friends.


Another approach to supervision is called laissez-faire. This method allows employees to utilize their skills and talents in getting the work done with little interference or supervision from the higher ups. The theory is: Hire good people and then get out of their way. This type of supervision may appeal to you very much or you might not like it. Some employers who work in this environment perceive supervision as an admission of failure, meaning that they only submit to supervision when they are in a situation that they cannot handle on their own.


Synergistic supervision is a supervisor work style where a cooperative effort between the staff and the supervisor exists. If your supervisor manages in this way, he has a dual focus of supporting his staff and its development while accomplishing the goals of the organization. When this method of supervision is used, all employees are assisted when necessary so that their skills and knowledge can improve. The emphasis is on identification of problems early on and then jointly fixing them so that the process can continue and flourish and result in an end product that everyone can be proud of.



Adapting to your Boss' Style Supervision styles

Mayo Clinic: Work stress and health

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