Manager vs. Supervisor: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

February 22, 2021

Managers and supervisors are both positions of leadership in an organization. Managers typically play a more strategic role in a company, making decisions, setting goals and overseeing the success of a team while supervisors are responsible for administering tasks and ensuring they are done properly and on time. In this article, we'll explore the roles of both managers and supervisors and the main differences between these roles.

Read more: How to Become a Manager

What is a manager?

A manager is an individual who makes essential decisions that affect all areas of business operations. They outline the purpose of their decision, along with identifying employees and the duties they need to perform to ensure the completion of tasks. They choose the amount they need to spend on resources and allocate them to each department so they can reach their goals.

Job duties for managers may include:

  • Organizing the company's management structure to streamline workflow, communication and performance

  • Collaborating with the human resources department to identify, interview and hire employees

  • Instructing employees while following company guidelines in the employee handbook

  • Organizing training and professional development opportunities for all employees to participate in

  • Evaluating employee performance by using a performance management system and set goals for employees during each quarter

  • Delegating tasks to employees and give feedback regularly on their performance

  • Providing work schedules to employees and make adjustments regarding vacation, paid time off and emergencies

  • Communicating department information to employees via one-on-one and team meetings

Read more: What Are the Responsibilities of a Manager?

What is a supervisor?

A supervisor is an individual who makes decisions approved by the manager. They work alongside employees to ensure if they perform tasks that align with the goals managers set. These individuals are the first point of contact if a problem occurs with employees or customers. They can report it to the manager if they believe the problem deserves their attention. Supervisors decide if conflicts deserve the manager's attention if they believe their actions affect the completion of their goals.

Job duties for supervisors may include:

  • Creating performance goals and set deadlines that match with the company's plans

  • Overseeing workflow to assist employees in knowing their job responsibilities and delegated duties

  • Coaching employees by giving them constructive feedback to help perform certain tasks

  • Addressing inquiries and complaints from customers

  • Keeping track of employee's schedules and maintain personnel records

  • Gathering and submitting performance reports to the department manager

  • Choosing employees who are eligible for promotions and bonuses

  • Helping to train new employees while adhering to company policies

Read more: What Are the Responsibilities of a Supervisor?

What are the differences between managers and supervisors?

The main differences between managers and supervisors are their level of authority, responsibilities, objectives and pay. Typically, managers are higher-level, higher-paid leaders in an organization responsible for strategic planning, goal setting and team management. Supervisors, on the other hand, are closer to the day-to-day tasks of their teams to ensure the manager's goals are achieved.

Below, we'll explore the main differences between managers and supervisors in each of these four categories:

Level of authority

A manager is a higher-ranking employee within a company. A supervisor reports to the manager about developments related to products, services and employees working under their direction. A company might have several supervisors reporting to a manager depending on its size, and they can promote an employee to become a supervisor if they excel in their current role.

A manager reports to a department's director, vice president or a board of directors. For example, the director of a department within a grocery store might speak with the manager to get an update on the status of operations during a snowstorm.

Responsibilities

Supervisors work on the day-to-day tasks to advance the production of their employees and position the department for success. Supervisors understand the duties of the employees they work with, the amount of work they've completed and the impact their performance has on the organization. Managers might instruct supervisors to give performance reviews to each employee once they have given feedback on their performance.

Managers meet with supervisors to discuss the general performance of the department and its employees. They conduct the performance review of supervisors that work for them. They expect supervisors to highlight the department's status by meeting their goals and note problems that may alter the department's performance. Managers attend meetings for their company's senior leadership team and oversee the budget.

Objectives

Managers and supervisors have different goals they need to meet. A supervisor's goals have an internal focus, meaning they coordinate with employees within their department to make sure they're finishing their present tasks.

The supervisor facilitates the training of employees, so they know how to perform their job correctly and decrease the amount of time spent on tasks. For example, a supervisor working in an IT department can work with an employee on an issue with their computer. Once the supervisor fixes their computer, they ask them what tasks they're working and note shortcuts to help them complete their projects quickly.

A manager's goals have an external focus because they're accountable for the company's performance outside of one department. An external focus allows them to understand the progress of their department without getting involved with the completion of individual tasks. They set aside time to design a strategy to achieve long-term profits and sustainability for the company. Managers overview the benefits and risks of the strategy before sending it to their senior management team for approval.

Here are some example goals for supervisors to meet:

  • Enhance employee productivity by 10% next month

  • Increase employee retention rate by 15% over the next year

  • Train three employees and submit a three-month performance review for each employee

Here are some example goals for managers to achieve:

  • Finish next year's four-quarter strategy by the end of next month

  • Assign three special projects to supervisors by the end of the week

  • Adjust the company's budget and resubmit it to senior management for approval

Salary

Employees with a managerial job title have a higher salary than the supervisor at a company. Managers have more responsibilities than supervisors, so they earn higher wages for their work. Supervisors have a more specialized role with an organization since they work exclusively with employees within their department, but they still earn higher salaries than front-line employees because of their enhanced responsibilities.

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