Are You Supervisor Material?

Know why you are being promoted to a management position, so you know what to expect in your new position.

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Not many of us enter veterinary medicine with the intention to someday become a manager. In fact, we can be innocently carrying on our position of technician, assistant or front office, and WHAM! You are asked to become a manager or supervisor! What now? There are several reasons why you may be selected for a promotion into management. As difficult as the truth may be, you should be clear as to why you’re being considered for this promotion, so that you have a glimpse of your potential and the support that is being offered to you by those who want you in the position.

Too Much for the Top

It makes sense that when the manager at “the top” becomes overwhelmed with too much to do, they will start to implement some levels of middle management to help them get all the work done. This makes sense, except often times the middle managers are still spending 75 percent of their time “on the floor” being the receptionist, technician, etc. So everyone needs to be clear as to what percent of time this middle manager will be given to complete administrative or “management” type work. This may need to be modified as time goes on, and certainly the team needs to appreciate that the new manager will be spending less time helping them in that moment.

Too Many for the Bottom

When a manager ends up with too many people to directly manage, then middle management is the way to go … to get relief. This also allows for the management team to have “eyes” at the floor level of the practice, to monitor performance, workload and behavior. It needs to be quite clear to all involved just how much of the human resources work will be given to the new manager in the middle; will they give evaluations? Will they provide coaching and discipline? Will they be in charge of hiring for that position in the future? And the team also needs to understand the new dynamics and scope of authority for this new manager.

You’re the “Best”

Most of the time, the overachievers or exceptional employees are picked for promotion, because they are “the best.” Yet, just because they are the best technician, the best receptionist or the best kennel person does not mean that they will be the best person suited for a management position. In fact, if you are going to sacrifice someone who is best at their primary job, and lose that person’s contribution to that work area, then it would seem realistic to ensure they are good management material before the promotion. Often times, however, this is another one of those visions that work best in hind sight.

You’ve Survived the Longest

Tenure may have its advantages in some professions, but not necessarily in veterinary medicine. A person who has survived the longest in the practice isn’t necessarily the best person doing the job; in fact, they just may be lazy, or not have any initiative, or have no desire to grow anymore, so they have felt comfortable just spending their days giving minimum effort to the task at hand. If you are being offered a management position because you have the highest rank in seniority, find out why the powers that be feel that you are best suited for the position to be filled. The cold reality is that if you are promoted and it doesn’t work out, often it is very difficult to drop back down into that team as if nothing has changed.

Remember, the best-case scenario is when a person who is good at the job, has been a positive influence on the practice, and who shows the initiative to learn more is selected for possible promotion. The practice has a clear idea of what they want in a manager, what duties they want that manager to perform, and what training they are willing and able to provide to help that person succeed in their new position. Given the ideal combination of circumstances, middle management can be the best thing to happen to you and your practice.

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