I watched the movie “Horrible Bosses” more than once, due to circumstance actually. Isn’t that the nightmare of most employees? Worse yet, would that be even more terrifying for a student working in a work term position?
What are the things that I would like in a supervisor? No one has really asked me that question during a job interview yet. The closest I remember was during my interview with the Students’ Union when they asked me the characteristics of my ideal professor. A close second is about what kinds of support I would need in this project for the GEF interview. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think of that every once in a while. So what is my answer to the question? Here is a short list:
1. Expert in their field: This is easily reflected with the way they speak and think about their jobs. This may come in the form of educational attainment, experience gained through time or other means. It provided me with a better understanding of the how’s and why’s of things in the workplace.
2. Willing to share stories related to the organization and their experiences: I really enjoy listening to stories about the organization, their job or related events, facts and opinions. And here’s why: I find them entertaining, informative, inspiring, or a combination of the three. I realized how cleanliness is valuable in under acknowledged areas of a facility because the dust can set the whole building on fire; and hopefully our policy project can bring awareness and action. I learn how they fit and where I fit in the scheme of things. With that, I get reminded of the good that comes out of my job or project, even if it is something small.
3. Easygoing and approachable: The way I explain this may sound ridiculous, but feeling assured that whenever you approach your boss they won’t bite you is a BIG deal, don’t you think? 😉
4. Passionate: Maybe the fact that the organizations are not-for-profit gave an influence, but I can really see that they are invested in the effects of what they do in their jobs to those who will experience it first hand. She really wants the students to receive great resources and support they need to become capable and confident in their governance representative positions. He really wants the seniors to be safe and comfortable in the apartments or rooms that they will be renting and the facilities they use. Passion is very infectious, and if the boss has it, it makes me try my best to do an awesome job in the role that they gave me in the project.
5. Supportive but in a non-hovering way: My office layout during my placement last year made me realize how much this means to me. (See Illustration Below) I realized how the feeling that someone is (or seems to be) looking over your shoulder is incredibly uncomfortable. It took me a little while to feel reassured about the layout, and I discovered a benefit as well. As long as her door is opened, we can easily holler at each other for things we need from each other. Apart from the hollering, whether it is through the weekly meetings, emails, resources, when we greet each other or when I say “I’m about to tear my hair out”, receiving support through concrete advice and criticism, saying “It’ll be okay”, or heavily red-marking my report really helps a lot.
6. I feel like I’m not a subordinate, but rather a partner and a teammate: Of course it is very important to understand and work with the lines of authority in a job. After all, I need their stamp of approval with a proposal I have or with reviewing a project that I just finished. They also hold the purse strings. 😉 However, I really valued feeling comfortable with speaking my mind, being critical, being creative, even ranting without having to fear a sharp reprimand, a negative reaction, or a bad opinion of me afterwards. It’s even more challenging during co-op, since being a student intern gives more of a ‘rookie’ image. But it really alleviates the perceived gap if the boss is happy to link arms with me and muscle through the project together.
Ms. Henry, from my placement with the Students’ Union last year, and Mr. Kitlar, my current supervisor at GEF Seniors Housing, are really great. My list above is formed through my interactions with them and how I feel as a person in her/his team after experiencing these behaviours. In the future, I would definitely love to work with (note I said WITH and not FOR) such supervisors.
I sometimes can’t help but wonder how different it would have been if I am a permanent employee instead of a student. Will the treatment change? I hope not. Since I am with them for a short period of time, I’m very sure that this list of mine will grow longer when I start working with supervisors in positions that have some longevity involved.
Being in Co-op is for having a direct experience in the workplace. How did your experiences shape what you love about your supervisors and what you feel the exact opposite for? What attitudes do you think will you adapt when you are the supervisor?