Life is an education and the best learners manage to benefit from both positive and negative experiences. We all like to think we have control of our lives and as children we are led to believe this is reality. As we mature and enter the work world we often discover that our daily lives, emotions, futures, and lifestyles are dictated by our jobs, careers, and supervisors.
Those of you that have read my book A Park Ranger’s Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks know that several stories centered on some interesting characters I had as supervisors during my career. Although frustrations generated by working for some of these individuals had short term and in some cases longer term impacts on my life, after reflection I was still able to take these experiences and learn from them.
I am sure that you have seen examples of people who move up in an organization to a level where they will laud their authority over others and generally treat people badly in what seems to be an effort to strengthen their position. In most cases this is behavior learned from their own experiences as an employee. Now that they are in charge, these individuals feel entitled to take the same liberties and treat people worse than they had been handled by their bad supervisors. At times I felt it was a form of one- upmanship or that they are going to make others pay an even a higher price than they had.
The challenges are to survive these trying times, outlast the protagonist, remain professional doing your job, and always remember how actions of bad supervisors made you feel and avoid those actions that did not motivate you to be productive. On the other hand it is also important to recall the methods used by the good supervisors that made you feel positive about the job and yourself.
This is a bit simplistic because not every employee responds to the same incentives, treatment, and oversight so flexibility and adapting techniques is an ongoing process for success. There is obviously a lot more to being an affective supervisor.
Several of the lessons I learned as a park ranger include;
Use the negative ways a weak supervisor treated you to remember how not to act toward others.
Never use your position as an opportunity to make yourself look smarter than your employees. There is no better way to build resentment and disrespect within a work group.
Unlike the bad supervisors I had, a key to success is making every employee feel important and respected.
This foundation of this respect should be based on accomplishing the mission of the organization rather than any personal agenda.