A reader writes: “I am a new supervisor at a rather large account with over 10 workers. The staff tend to come and go when they choose with different ones covering for each other. Since they have been doing this before I arrived, what should I do?

Congratulations on this first assignment. Let me assure you that a staff of 10 seems large to you but try 100 or more scattered across several buildings over a large campus. As we discussed your situation, it became obvious that a relative has given you this job since they needed the help and you needed the work. You seem industrious and hard-working but I am concerned that you did not get a proper orientation before starting this assignment. Yes, you have supervision skills in an office setting but I believe you are learning rapidly that it is a totally different environment with a custodial crew at night. Please understand that these workers are simply challenging you to see how far they can go.

It appears that you currently are covering for workers who claim to have sick child or for some reason need to leave early too often for my comfort level. You also keep finding workers using their cell phones during work, which not only reduces productivity but also can be a safety hazard in some cases. You have other workers who seem to be challenging your authority by telling you when they will and will not work. You do not seem to have a grasp of the company policy manual, which should be your guide in dealing with these issues.

I suggest you have a frank discussion with management to better understand your role and authority. All of the described actions are unacceptable and you need to get better control of the situation soon before it gets any worse. I cannot give you guidance that should be coming from management or HR in some cases. You need to implement firm, fair and consistent policies for all workers under your supervision. You need to understand how and when to write up an insubordinate worker who shows up late or leaves early on a regular basis. One key is to make sure you implement these policies and practices consistently to avoid claims of discrimination or favoritism.

Good luck and “may the Force be with you” since are definitely going to need it. Your comments and feedback are always appreciated. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean...

Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678-314-2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.