Are You, or Someone You Know, a Stupidvisor?

I was watching Bar Rescue one night as Jon Taffer was waylaying into a set of doe-eyed employees about the behavior he was witnessing. I can’t recall the episode, but the thing that struck me was the term he used to describe the supervisor.  After questioning the supervisor about her role and her authority with the team he dubbed her a “stupidvisor”.  The owner’s jaw dropped and the rest of the team nodded their heads.

In a nutshell, he was saying that if you as an owner give the title of supervisor to an employee you have to also give them some of the power that goes along with the title. A supervisor should be able to create direction, hire, fire, discipline, and make crucial and timely decisions.  You as the owner set the tone, the supervisor is tasked with creating a successful team under that tone. Giving someone a title and then still requiring them to get permission for every little decision not only frustrates you as the owner, it frustrates them, slows the process down, and disrupts employee moral.  More importantly, the employees absolutely know without a doubt who the “boss” is.  They will sidestep the stupidvisor so that they can cut down the time in getting a decision made.  This lack of respect translates to tense relations between the employees, the supervisor, and the owner.

I’ve been in the stupidvisor position before and my boyfriend used to say, “All of the responsibility, none of the power”. It was a demoralizing situation that ended up with me seeking greener pastures. And why wouldn’t someone in this position? A supervisor that is just a title has no way of providing any real leadership to employees or growing in their own careers.  A business with this type of structure has no way of improving moral.  Think about it, the very person charged with being a cheerleader and a champion for the team and the brand is stuck asking and waiting on decisions from the owner.  What really then is the point of handing out the title?

With my role in the small business center I’ve had many owners come to me with some problem in their business that was inevitably disrupting sales.  In most instances what they described as their problem really turned out to be a symptom of a greater issue. For example, I worked with a business that came in for help in marketing, we will call them “Jack and Diane”.  I put together a 12 month detailed marketing calendar and outlined example strategies for the business.  I asked Jack who would implement it, and how it would be implemented.  He explained that he had been experiencing frequent turnover but his wife, Diane, was the manager and she would see to it that it was done.

This immediately raised some questions in our session.  First of all, why was Diane not present at the session if she was the “manager”.  And second, could he explain the reasons behind the cycle of turnover they were experiencing?  His explanations for the turnover included that they hired “young kids” that “do not like to work” and designated team leads did not “step up”.

What we uncovered during that session was that he was wanting to step back from daily operations and in doing so allowed his wife to take over the role of manager.  She was to be the person responsible for hiring, firing, managing the books, and leadership for the team.  What was really happening was that she had to ask her husband about every decision she made.  This led the employees to do the same, which led to confusion about who was the “boss”, and led both the husband and wife to work over 60 hours a week each to cover the store.  Guess what folks, Diane was a stupidvisor. And though neither Jack nor Diane realized it, you can bet their employees did.  I implore, how could any employee step up if their supervisor could not?

Many small businesses start as a flat and simple structure with “mom and pop” ruling the roost.  As a business grows owners often have a hard time shifting out of daily operations.  They see the need to hire and/or delegate greater responsibilities to employees. But in many instances do not know how to let go, thus entering the micromanager/supidvisor cycle.  It is imperative that the employees know who is supervising them.  This does not mean that the owner is giving up power, it means that they are trusting an employee to work as an extension of themselves. They will make mistakes.  Hopefully they are provided with training opportunities that will help them help you.  This will allow owners to concentrate on bigger and better things like growing the business or taking a much needed vacation!

Businesses stuck in the micromanager/stupidvisor cycle experience turnover, tense employee relations and disruptions in sales due to slow decision making, decreased moral and loss of continuity in leadership.  Jon Taffer’s solution to this problem? Either take the title away and do it yourself, or give them the proper tools and get the heck out of their way.  If you watch the show regularly you know that he relies on the latter approach.  9.9 times out of 10 people rise to the occasion, the excitement improves moral, the business turns around and the owner gets to be an owner.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?