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Supervisor vs Manager: The Key Differences

Alexa Drake
Alexa Drake  |  November 22, 2019

The success of a team relies heavily on the success of the leader.

Like Shrek said: “Businesses have layers.” Whether your company is expanding or you’ve already created career paths that work, knowing the difference between similar roles is not only helpful to you but necessary when creating a team that relies on titles to inform how they can climb the career ladder.

One of the most important tools a leader can use is clear leadership communication. Roles like “supervisor” and “manager” can often be mistaken for each other, and identifying the key differences between them will put your employees’ minds at ease. When it comes to a role’s place on the team and the responsibilities they hold, transparency is key to keep everyone on the same page.

In this article, we’ll dive into the responsibilities of each role as well as the core differences between them.

Supervisor vs manager: what makes them different

Both the roles of supervisor and manager are important to guide the entire team toward reaching their goals. You may hear of people having titles such as Community Manager or Front Line Supervisor and wonder why these titles were given to them. Surely there’s a reason why one person is a manager and the other is a supervisor. It’s a common thing to hear that someone’s title references their responsibilities on the job, however, there is still confusion regarding these two roles.

Let’s break each role down to take a closer look.

The responsibilities of a supervisor

Typically, a supervisor falls under a manager in the role hierarchy chart. Most often, a supervisor is a high performer on the team who has been with the company for a long time. They’ll know the intricacies of how the team works, company policies, and the quality of work that is expected of themselves and the team.

It’s very common that the title of “supervisor” is the first managerial position a hard-working employee will put on their resume. Additionally, many employees who are promoted to supervisor are internal hires, meaning they already work at the company.

A supervisor will typically oversee a group of people on the team who have similar jobs and/or do similar work. This role is all about making sure these employees are staying on track and doing the work that is expected of them. Finally, a supervisor will let a manager know if an employee is underperforming, but they have no power to reprimand that employee themself.

differences between supervisor and manager
 
Related: Whether you’re a supervisor, manager, or any other type of leader, taking time to develop your managerial soft skills will be beneficial no matter what. Click through to read up on what those skills are and why they’re important.

The responsibilities of a manager

A manager is typically in charge of managing resources, projects, and team workflows. The resources they manage can be material, personnel, or financial. People in a manager role have decision-making capabilities and can make the call on when and where to hire, let go, and invest.

Because their responsibilities are to help the team and support the company, managers will be given more insights into behind the scenes decision-making than a supervisor will. This is because a manager’s job is to make sure their team or department is in line with the company’s overall strategy. They’re given the ability to call for more or fewer resources when they deem it necessary.

When it comes down to it, a manager will have insight into where the team should be heading to meet company standards as well as basic people management skills. A supervisor will have more in-depth knowledge of the employees’ day-to-day activities.

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Although thin, the line is there

Although the roles of supervisor and manager have differences in how they help to run the team, there will continue to be confusion regarding who does what. Hopefully, you’re leaving with a better sense of each role and where the line between them is drawn.

No matter the title you hold, knowing how to resolve conflict is important to keep your team strong. Read up on the five conflict management styles and when you should use each.

Alexa Drake
Author

Alexa Drake

Alexa is a Content Marketing Associate at G2. Born and raised in Chicago, she went to Columbia College Chicago and entered the world of all things event marketing and social media. In her free time, she likes taking her dog on walks, creating playlists for every mood, and finding the best vegetarian food in the city. (she/her/hers)