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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Can you supervise yourself?

Words by Francis Kahihu

One of the increasingly common phrases on many job adverts is the requirement for candidates who are able to work under minimal supervision. This is a subtle way of hinting on the need for workers who are able to supervise themselves. This concern comes from the realization by the employers that supervision is costly and adds little value since it wastes a lot of the company’s time and human resources.

Remember the behavior of the students in school when the teachers were away or the kids at home when the parents we not watching. Just observe our roads and get mesmerized at the behavior of the drivers when there are no traffic cops. We all like the freedom that comes with lack of supervision only that few have the capacity to manage such freedom. Many people mess up their lives whenever there is no one watching over them. Since we can never have people watching over us at all times, self supervision then is a soft skill we need to develop if we are to achieve our purpose for living.

At the workplace, many people have been unable to manage their freedom hence have to be supervised. You only need to check out a workplace when the boss is away on leave or on a trip. Workers exhibit a total lack of focus leading to great losses for the company. This implies that many people perform best when under supervision, yet that is never a guarantee. If you cannot perform well under self supervision, the truth could be you would never perform optimally even with outside supervision. The who you are when no one is watching is the who you really are.

I have interacted with numerous resumes and one common feature is the indication that many of us can work under minimum supervision. This has been used as a bait for employers to hire yet has not been a reflection of the reality on the ground. The same people who indicated can work with minimum supervision have to be herded at work for them to produce positive results. This then means that a mere phrase on the resume that you can work under minimum supervision may not necessarily guarantee you a job. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Many times we fail to perform to our optimal capacity when we fail to value our work. When we do not derive satisfaction from our engagements at work, we tend to require constant push for us to perform. The motivation is not inherent but has to be acquired from outside of us. This is a risky practice as you tend to move through life under pressure from other people. You only move when pushed. Believe it or not, you will not have pushers available every time. Unless we develop the capacity and desire to supervise ourselves, we shall eventually get stranded in life as the steam to make us move will eventually fade away.

Setting personal goals and targets and working towards achieving them is one way of seeking for self motivation. When we own the targets and develop an inner zeal to work towards achieving them, we do not wait to be supervised by external factors. The supervisor in this case will be found within us. We will push ourselves hard enough to achieve our goals. This experience provides great satisfaction as we see ourselves attaining levels of excellence we set for ourselves.

I have heard a few people indicate that the reason why they relax when their bosses are away is because they are usually overworked by their supervisors. The absence of their superiors signals an opportunity to relax ad recover overused energy. This may sound a justifiable excuse yet the truth is that you will be seeking for revenge. Unfortunately, such are the experiences that easily lead to burn out at work since staff tend to have little or no motivation to deliver on their work. They fail to withdraw energy from within hence leaving great potential lying unutilized thinking they are punishing the bosses.

Working under minimum supervision is an experience we go through to evaluate our levels of maturity. Only mature people can remain faithful to themselves and the expectations of their environments even when no one is watching them. In case you find your self having to seek out for supervision in order to perform, I would suggest that you need personalised support to enhance your maturity. Mature people know what needs to be done and do it regardless of who is around. A professional counselor might be a handy resource in this case.


  1. I quite like this article on self supervision. I remember a quote saying, "What would you do if you knew that nobody would ever know? What would you not do if you knew nobody would ever know?"

    Some people would carry as much paper from the office and take it home, they would use the office car to run personal errands, use office imprest for personal goods, or just chat online during office hours.

    Some other people would never work as hard if they knew their bosses would never know and recognize their effort. They would never go to work on time, they would never get the reports done on time, they would leave office before close of business e.t.c

    Self supervision is a personal management skill. It is helpful in employment but much more needed in self employment. How many times have you found someone complaining of an item they ordered but was not delivered on time? Have you recently asked for quotations and found people claiming to be in business but take weeks to deliver a one page quotation?

    In many instances all these people blame something or someone other than themselves and no wonder they do not take responsibility.


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