New Research Points To High Costs of Bad Supervisors

If you are concerned about the cost of training your supervisors, new research says you may be exposing your companies to an even higher price tag.  The study, done at the University of Texas at Dallas, indicates that abusive supervisors can create problems throughout the company:

Research has shown that abusive supervision affects more than 13 percent of U.S. workers. Costs incurred by corporations because of absenteeism, health care costs and lost productivity has been estimated at $23.8 billion annually.

The authors found that the damage from abusive supervisors extends far beyond the direct costs listed above.   Bad supervisors and managers impact the way employees view their company.   Employees lose trust in the company, Quality and safety suffer.  Turnover goes up.

What this does to culture?  Every company has its own culture, roughly defined as “the way we do things.”   In a good culture, employees are engaged.  They trust management to do right by them and they respond with increased production, less turnover and higher quality.   In a good safety culture, employees believe the company’s commitment to safety and  openly communicate near misses and hazards to management.   Supervisors are the key to establishing that trust and an abusive supervisor can undue everything a company does to build a strong culture.

How does supervisor training help?  Let’s start with the path most supervisors take to their job.  In a lot of trades, they were promoted from the crew, either because they were good at their jobs or, in too many cases, just because they had some seniority and were reliable.  They may be insecure about their own abilities.  They may be good at doing but inexperienced at coaching and directing.  Their only experience with supervisors may have been the ones who run their crews by “tellin’ and yellin.”   Anyone surprised if they respond to their lack of preparation by being abusive.

What companies should do?

  1. Recognize what abusive supervisors can cost your company and commit to prepare your supervisors and managers to lead.  By that I mean leading by example, through communications and by using influence instead of giving orders.
  2. Align your HR approaches with the culture you want for your company.  Promote supervisors who show promise.  Reward the ones who grow into their roles and weed out the ones who can’t.
  3. Train.  Give them the tools they need to succeed.

How Lifeline Strategies Can Help

Customers told us they needed a way to help supervisors make the step from being a member of the crew to leading the crew.  So we created our class, “Buddy-to-Boss.”  Since then we have added modules to help more experienced managers and employees who manage processes or equipment, but need to rely on co-workers to be successful.

Let’s talk about your needs.  Contact us at

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