Q. Is being “approachable” important for a supervisor? I keep an open-door policy. Doesn’t this mean I am approachable?
A. Approachability is a valuable strength for a manager and usually means he or she is an effective communicator. Being approachable increasers the likelihood of reducing risk to the organization and solving problems and concerns before they grow worse. Approachability is closely associated with two other skills – vulnerability (openness) and authenticity. Employees are naturally attracted to these personality traits, and they directly influence your reputation, likeability, and the appearance that you are approachable. Typically these traits are also associated with warmth and patience and the willingness to respect employees’ views, collaborate with them, and be a good listener. Do you struggle with any of these traits or skills? If so, there may be room to become more approachable. Your EAP can help because these skills can be taught or the traits can be acquired.
Q. I am a new supervisor. What myths and misconceptions about being a supervisor am I most likely to accidentally model and therefore get myself in trouble with my employees and management?
A. It is good to have an awareness of the stereotypes, misperceptions, and falsehoods associated with the supervisors’ role to avoid modeling them. Most fall into four broad areas. 1) The Dominating Personality (bossing people around, intimidating staff, instilling fear, and being loud); 2) The Overseer (being the sole planner, doing all the big thinking, delegating everything, and kicking back to watch it all happen); 3) The Easy Streeter (giving lots of kudos, keeping the troops happy, being a friend to all, and trusting that the skills of supervision will come naturally and you will now have less stress with no more hard work); and 4) The Stress Monster (always being available day or night, being a know-all-see-all, doing the most difficult tasks, being smarter than anyone you supervise, never making a mistake, and arriving early and staying late).
Q. I am experiencing ongoing stress. Recently I have felt a little detached from conversations and events. It is difficult to describe, but sometimes it’s like I am only “half there”, not really involved. It also feels like I am just going through the motions. Is this burnout?
A. A professional assessment is recommended to determine the cause of this symptom. Many people under stress and experiencing burnout complain of feeling “detached” from their surroundings. Things seem less real, even a little dream-like. This is known as depersonalization. It is a defense mechanism, but it is less commonly experienced as compared to others like denial, externalizing, and projection. Its purpose is to taper your response to stress in your environment, but this is not the way you should continue to function. You need to be aware of your surroundings, especially when driving a car or operating machinery. You know something is not quite right, so with that information, turn to the EAP for an assessment. The EAP can help you determine if you are experiencing burnout, evaluate you for other symptoms, and get you to the right help.