Supervisor or tormentor?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Manning
  • 39th Security Forces Squadron superintendent
In my 28 years of service, I have found that supervisors usually fall into one of two categories: bad or good. I know, you are thinking that is two very basic categories to place supervisors in but I have found it to be true in most cases. Fortunately, all but three of my supervisors fell into the "good" category. Below you will find an example of both with a "Master Sgt. Bossman" being the bad supervisor and "Staff Sgt. Fair" being the good supervisor. As you read through both scenarios, please reflect back on your career and think of supervisors you have known; how did they affect you?

Supervisor A - Master Sgt. Bossman

"Airman Suzie" was confidently briefing "Capt. Pilot" about the requirements for his official photo. Suddenly, Sergeant Bossman, from out of nowhere, interrupted her and very loudly told her what she was doing was wrong. He demanded to know why she was giving out incorrect information to an officer. Airman Suzie froze, her face turned blood red, and she began to shake. She knew she was right, but she couldn't find the words to defend herself. The waiting room went silent and Airman Suzie just knew everyone was staring at her. Finally, she reached for the Air Force Instruction and showed the sergeant and Captain Pilot the amendment, which proved she knew her business. Sergeant Bossman tried to laugh off the situation, especially when Capt Pilot announced, "Top, looks like you owe your Airman an apology since she knows what she is talking about." When Sergeant Bossman announced that he doesn't apologize to Airmen, the Captain high tailed it to the officer-in-charge's office and made a formal complaint about the unprofessional behavior of the senior non-commissioned officer.

Supervisor B - Staff Sgt. Fair

Soon after the official photo incident, Airman Suzie moved to a new office. Her supervisors decided she had "done her time" in her previous position. She had won Airman of the month and they wanted a sharp troop in the office. Airman Suzie was extremely apprehensive about the move because she heard rumors that Sergeant Fair was a tough supervisor who demanded a lot from his Airmen. Even though he had high expectations and demanded perfection, Airman Suzie excelled in her new job. She sewed on her next stripe and began to build up loads of confidence in herself, her new job and she even managed to complete all of her career development courses to keep progressing in her career.

Sergeant Fair continued to challenge Airman Suzie and put her in for quarterly awards, made her study for boards and even encouraged her to practice facing movements to help her overcome her nervousness. Initially, Airman Suzie resented this because she did not want to meet a board. But that all changed when she started to win quarterly awards. She became very confident in herself and some would say a little arrogant. She became used to being rewarded and after she finished her CDCs, her supervisor began a routine of letting her leave for the day at lunch time on Fridays after all of her duties were done. Airman Suzie would lounge at the base swimming pool for the afternoon and wait for her friends to get off work.

Which supervisor are you? Do you yell, scream, belittle or embarrass your Airmen like Supervisor A? Do you mentor your Airmen and teach them to be independent and strong performers like Supervisor B?

There is a lesson to be learned in the above scenarios and I am sure you have some of your own from previous encounters with supervisors. I encourage you to do the right thing and treat your subordinates with respect. I realize not all career fields have the luxury of allowing personnel to leave early or give them a day off, but sometimes a complement or words of encouragement will go a long way.