Difference between supervision and management?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by tievoli, Nov 7, 2005.

  1. tievoli Senior Member

    Thanks in advance!
  2. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    A supervisor and a manager are much the same. The root words imply a slight difference-- "overseeing" in the first case, "handling" in the second. A manager might tend to get more directly or physically involved with the work than a supervisor would. In a larger organization, managers in the middle levels might have a supervisor.

    Sometimes there's no hierarchical comparison-- as in local government, where you might have a City Manager and a County Board of Supervisors. A county is usually (but not always) a larger and more powerful entity than a city-- but it's governed by a Board of Supervisors (with a Chairman, usually), and a city has a single City Manager.

    Not real conclusive, was I? The words are very close to being interchangeable. Especially to someone who is unaware of the etymology, and doesn't see it as an "eye" vs "hand" thing.
  3. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    Managers, especially at the higher end, are making business decisions,

    Generally speaking, supervisors are making sure other people are carrying out those decisions.

    A lot of middle-level "managers" are supervisors with fancy titles.
  4. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    Interesting. My experience with the words has been in direct contrast with FFB's explanation, although I agree that his makes sense given the etymology. In the factory where I worked some time ago, the supervisor was a member of the union (working class) in charge of directing the line employees who assembled the machines. It was the lowest level of a management sort of position, and he was the most likely manager to get his hands dirty: union rules required that non-union staff keep their hands off, because it was THEIR work by contract. Managers were planners, directors; not members of the union.
  5. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Yes, when I got into local-government terminology I started thinking about industrial organization, and unions, and the de jure estrangement of "management" from "hands-on" work. I decided going on about it might muddy the waters, but why did I think that avoiding such a thing was possible?

    In my factory experience, I was Chief of Security at an automotive plant, and my go-to guy in the factory hierarchy had two titles-- Shift Supervisor and Personnel Manager. I found it politic to regard him as my boss, but we didn't work for the same company-- he was in fact the employee of the client of my employer. Only when the prerogatives of my bailiwick (security) conflicted with his role as my boss, did my supervisory role (over labor and "management" alike) come into play. Otherwise I and my men were so menial I had to invoke Union and contractual rules to prevent the lowest-echelon foremen from telling my men to push a broom. Similarly, a no-status "supervisor" whose greatest exertion (like mine) was wielding a clipboard, became a manager's taskmaster the minute his purview (quality control, e.g.) was at issue.

    In my earlier post I had the small-business context more in mind. Store managers, especially in a franchise context, or anything organized in a chain or multi-outlet system-- are hands-on people. If you're a supervisor, you either ride herd over a part of the store's operation, or you sub for the manager during a shift or on a day when he's not on site. Or if you're the other type of supervisor I was dithering about, and are over a manager in the hierarchy, you have a circuit of outlets you inspect, and your job is to keep the managers up to snuff. And of course the franchise you work for has a management team.

    My wife is a shift manager in a restaurant which is also part of a franchise, and I managed a Baskin-Robbins store some years ago. That kind of manager tends to call his subordinates "team leaders" nowadays, and the liaison types with the "home office" are supervisors. In that context a manager is very hands-on, because there are some jobs you just can't delegate to someone who doesn't have a stake in the business-- like the floors, the snow in the parking lot, and cleaning the drains. You don't wanna know what a nice clean product like ice cream turns into, in a neglected drain. As an apartment manager (a whole new paragraph) I've done the "other" kind of drain work too, and it's cleaner than ice cream, trust me.

    Does any of this help the semantic drainwork around here? Damn, this manager/supervisor thing still has it running a little slow. Why doesn't the workforce just have a clearcut system of rank, like that paragon of clarity and efficiency, the Military?
  6. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    After the buzzword discussions of late, my cynical self thinks it is because the trivial nature of some of their jobs would become equally clear...
  7. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
  8. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    Crug Hywel
    UK English
    Just to bring another perspective here from the UK. I work as a manager and I supervise my staff. The supervision bit means I meet monthly with my staff in one to one meetings to discuss targets, progress and future plans. Supervision has also taken on a psychological aspect: counsellors get clinical supervision where they talk through what went well or where they want support dealing with their clients. It all starts sounding a bit PHB (pointy headed boss) you can find it umpteen references to the phenomenon on the net.

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