The 6 Factors of Knowledge Worker Productivity: Chapter 5 – Factor 2 – Perceived Supervisory Support

From their review of over 800 papers our researchers identified 6 factors that are associated with Knowledge Worker Productivity. Most of the research related to the productivity of Knowledge Worker teams, but many of the findings can be translated to apply to organisations, divisions or units. Here’s the second factor: Perceived Supervisory Support.


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‘Perceived Supervisory Support: How employees feel the supervisor helps them in times of need, praises them for a job well done, or recognises them for extra effort’.

In other words, people need to feel that the person they report to is positively supporting them in helping them in achieving their endeavours and not constantly ‘beating them up’ or blaming them for apparently substandard tasks. This means ‘supervisors’ proactively developing professional relationships with team members, providing coaching, resources and support to help people do their best and encouraging judicious risk taking. And when life is tough providing a sympathetic hearing. Perceived supervisory support also has a lot to do with the workplace culture, and leaders go about workplace management.

Why is this important?

In Knowledge Organisations the role of ‘supervisor’ is an important one in which the holder has the power to set the atmosphere within the team to help each individual complete their tasks, contribute their knowledge and ideas and work in harmony with other team members and other teams. If a supervisor does not exhibit supervisory support for colleagues, this may create an atmosphere in which people hold back their best performance, don’t feel safe to express their ideas and retreat into doing the least needed to get the job done without care for its meaning.

This is quite a tough gig for ‘supervisors’. We’ve all known people who have been brilliant individual contributors who have been put in charge of a team who are not great at being ‘perceived’ to support their people and we’ve all known people who do it naturally. The key word here is ‘perceived’. Sometimes managers may think they are doing all they can to support their colleagues but are not perceived to be by those colleagues.

I suppose in a way it’s about more than ‘being there for’ team members. It’s about proactively being seen to support every individual and the team in achieving their individual and collective endeavours as opposed to issuing commands which people are required to carry out unquestioningly. And when things at work go wrong (as from time to time they surely will) it’s not about beating people up or blaming them or others, it’s about finding out what went wrong and why and then seeking to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If things are going wrong in a team members personal life, it’s about being understanding and seeing if there are things that can be done to help. Levels of supervisory support can change the entire perception of the organisaiton for each individual employee.

And by ‘Supervisor’ we don’t just mean your boss. We also mean your bosses boss and up the chain. We could even extend this to the leaders of teams you deal with. In other words creating a very supportive culture in which we seek to help everyone do their best work every day. With this kind of culture people will be emotionally committed to giving their best for supervisors, colleagues and the organisation.

I’ll leave you with something to reflect on….ask yourself how supportive the leaders and supervisors in your business really are and make a list of all the things that could be changed to deliver a more supportive managerial culture.

Next week I’ll share with you the Factor 3 of the 6 Factors of Knowledge Worker Productivity.

Does your organisation have quality supervisory support? For more information on workplace productivity, contact a workplace management consultant on +44 20 7743 7110 or email with your inquiry. Advanced Workplace Associates are based in London, United Kingdom but now work internationally across the United States of America, Asia and Europe.

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