Skip to main content
Join Now

< Back to All

New Report Details the Impact of Poorly Trained Supervisors

August 4, 2023

By Michael Burns, courtesy of SBAM-approved partner, ASE

A leadership learning solutions organization out of San Francisco published results of a nationwide study (2,066 American adults) examining how first-time managers’ performance impacts their teams. Oji Life Lab engaged Harris Research to survey the impact first-time supervisors have on their subordinate employees and the impact that being untrained has on the first-time supervisors themselves.

The survey found that 40% of employees felt “stress or anxiety about going to work” due to a first-time manager, and more than a 1/3 of those subordinates lacked motivation with 1 in 5 reporting losing sleep because of a poor performing supervisor.  The sum of these factors and others resulted in a third of those reporting wanting to leave their companies.

40% of respondents stated that the new supervisor was weak at reducing conflict, handling difficult situations, providing quality feedback, running productive meetings, and making decisions.

During the time you worked for a first-time manager, which of the following, if any, did you experience as a result of working for this manager? (Please select all that apply.)

Effects of First-Time Managers Total (N=897) Female (N=395) Male (N=493)
Stress or anxiety about going to work 41%     353 46%     177 36%     171
Loss of confidence (Net) 40%     349 40%     152 41%     191
Loss of confidence in the company overall 31%     267 33%     126 29%     137
Loss of confidence in myself 20%     170 18%     69 21%     99
Lack of motivation to do more/offer suggestions 36%     312 40%     154 33%     154
Desire to leave my company 34%     295 40%     155 29%     135
Desire to change managers by changing jobs/teams within my company 31%     264 33%     129 28%     131
Negative impact on my relationships (Net) 30%     257 27%     105 32%     151
Negative impact on my relationships with co-workers 23%     201 22%     86 24%     114
Negative impact on my relationships with family and/or friends 13%     108 9%     35 15%     72
Negative feelings about my career path 23%     202 25%     96 22%     104
Poor sleep quality (e.g., trouble sleeping) 21%     185 22%     86 20%     96

Oji Life Lab 2023 Survey

For many HR and training and development managers these findings are not a surprise. In fact, too many experienced HR and training professionals think the “some weakness” 40% rate is probably too low.

Older workers (55+) report the lack of skills even more frequently with “handling difficult situations” being observed over 60% of the time and poor skills in “providing feedback” 59% of the time.

So, what are we talking about here? It’s no real news that new supervisors often lack sufficient training. This often can be the result of the employers promoting a strong individual contributor and unfortunately installing them in the supervisory role with a “sink or swim” philosophy.

Oji Life Lab CEO Matt Kursh states, “It’s no surprise that these freshly-minted managers have anxious teams that want to quit. Not only that, poorly trained new managers can walk themselves into situations that will cause the employer legal issues and employee and labor relations problems. Labor relations problems is one that employers today should be concerned with even more.

Union organizing is on the rise. Recent statistics out of the National Labor Relations Board reports unions are winning 80% of the elections being run today – up from below 60% in the past. Employers need to understand that poor supervisors and managers are one of, if not the biggest reason, employers find themselves being organized by a union. Although commonly cited reasons for organizing by employees is pay or job security, more often than not poor management leading to poor employee relations is really behind union organizing.

Also as mentioned above, new supervisors lack knowledge about reducing conflict and handling difficult situations. With this problem, they are not talking about being unable to fix a production problem. They are talking about problem employees and a new supervisors’ inability to properly respond to situations resulting from those employees and their behaviors. A new supervisor’s poor response to a disciplinary situation will resonate far beyond the employee at hand. This in turn will lead to poor employee relations, bad culture, and possible wrongful employment actions of many different sorts.

If there are enough of those poorly handled employee disciplinary situations, and in short order broader employee relations problems arise as one employee is treated differently than another and morale is impacted.

This study reminds employers and HR professionals to train first line supervisors up front, or better yet, before the employee is promoted into the supervisory role.

One-on-one coaching is another great option. This tool provides individualized, targeted training to develop management skills quickly.


Sources: Press Release: American Workers are Anxious, Losing Sleep and Considering Jumping Ship Due to Unprepared First-Time Managers. Harris Poll (7/17/2023); U.S. Workers Report Anxiety and Stress Over Unprepared First-Time Managers, HR Dive (7/24/2023)

Share On: