What is the difference between a supervisor and a manager?

What is the difference between a supervisor and a manager?

If you are working in a business environment or considering doing so, you might wonder what is the difference between a supervisor and a manager. These two roles are both essential for the smooth function of a successful business, but how do they differ from each other and what are their individual responsibilities?

Duties and responsibilities of a supervisor

A supervisor is a first-line manager – someone whose main priority is managing people.

The role of supervisor is people-oriented and focuses on monitoring the performance of team members and ensuring that they are meeting their individual targets and goals as well as making progress as a whole.

A supervisor assigns and coordinates tasks and prepares performance reports to be submitted to upper-level management. A supervisor is also responsible for implementing policies designed by the management team, bridging the gap between manager and employee.

It is also a supervisor’s role to train and mentor the employees working under them. They should act as a source of motivation and guidance to their team and help to resolve any issues – both business or pastoral – that may arise.

A successful supervisor is an all-rounder with a range of hard and soft skills. The ability to lead and take the initiative is vital, as is an organised and methodical personality.

A supervisor must be capable of planning ahead, delegation, monitoring progress and sticking to deadlines.

The ideal candidate is also a people person with excellent verbal and written communication skills. The ability to deal with personal matters sensitively and with compassion is also important; as a supervisor it is your responsibility to look after your team – they are a business resource and building strong working relationships with them is necessary to ensure a happy and productive team.

Duties and responsibilities of a manager of a business

The duties and responsibilities of a manager in a business depend on the department they are managing; as such those in managerial positions have very diverse skill sets. Nonetheless, there are some responsibilities common to all.

A manager is in control of business resources – employees, materials, tools, money – and decides how best to make use of them to advance the goals of the company. This involves managing a wide range of different tasks.

A manager requires the same degree of interpersonal skills as a supervisor and as it is relatively rare to ascend to the role of manager without first working in a supervisor there is a great deal of overlap. However, unlike supervisors – who often undertake some of the same work as their team – a manager’s role is exclusively planning and delegation.

One of the most significant differences between a manager and a supervisor is that the manager is responsible for recruitment. A supervisor will almost always be present at job interviews for positions in their team and will have a degree of input regarding which candidate is chosen, but the manager is ultimately in control of the hiring process.

The manager of a business is also responsible for firing employees should they believe this necessary. A supervisor cannot directly fire individuals, although they can recommend this course of action to their manager if they are dissatisfied with performance. Once again, however, the manager has the final say.


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