The Difference Between a Supervisor and a Manager

“I was one of the guys, as the team supervisor, now I am their manager,” said Jeremy. “I mean, I know what to do, it just feels weird.”

“Tell me about it.” I asked.

“Well, on Friday, we used to always go out for happy hour. Now, I am holding back. Maybe I will show up once a month after work, but I will usually only stay for one beer, then I beg off and hit the road.”

“What’s changed about the relationships?”

Jeremy took his time to respond. “I guess, instead of being a friend, the relationship was always about the work. I mean, it’s okay to be friendly, but sometimes you have to hold the line, sometimes you have to confront, sometimes the conversation is difficult.” He stopped. “And sometimes you feel by yourself.”

“So, who can you hang out with now?”

“Well, there other managers in the company. They have all been supportive. It is a different perspective. I’m the new kid on the block.”

“And what about your old team, from when you were a supervisor?”

“I am still a manager in that department, but now I work through their new supervisor. My relationship with the team, it’s not accountability anymore, not with me. Now, it’s more like a mentor relationship. It’s a longer view. Instead of me, telling them what to do, I do more observing. Their new supervisor is more concerned with their day-to-day productivity. I am actually looking for the team member that will emerge as the next supervisor in another year.”

“Why do you think all this feels weird?” I ask.

“It’s new,” said Jeremy. “My role is different. I never thought there was this much difference between being a supervisor and being a manager.”
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2 thoughts on “The Difference Between a Supervisor and a Manager

  1. charlie katz

    Tom.. What was your advice on this? Seems like as the manager he should want to continue a positive relationship outside the office to maintain morale and availability.

  2. Tom Foster

    Hi, Charlie,
    Lots of things change when a supervisor becomes a manager. This series with Jeremy explores, not just the accountability that changes, but the other things that surround the role, including the working, and non-working relationships. The new manager doesn’t just get a new desk, lots of things change, most importantly the state of mind.


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