Inspectioneering Journal

Common Sense Maintenance Front Line Supervisor Development and Utilization – Part 1

By Mike Johnston, Senior Consultant at T. A. Cook Consultants, Inc. This article appears in the January/February 2016 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


It is a generally accepted fact that most Front Line Supervisors (FLS) come up “from the ranks” of the hourly staff. This can be rewarding to the individual promoted as recognition for knowledge, experience, and dedicated service is gratifying. However, most companies provide neither training nor any type of preparation or guidance for the person they have now placed in a supervisory role. In essence, the new FLS is dumped at the deep end of the pool, sometimes in lead boots, and left to sink or swim. They are forced to either determine how to best do the job on their own, or go down trying. Many seek refuge in administrative work where they do not have to go in the field and confront the people who they worked side-by-side with before they were promoted. This causes ineffective management of the craftspeople, FLS burnout, or a high rate of turnover in this job function. By and large, some degree of all of these circumstances usually occurs.

This short article will examine the shortcomings that may result when a craftsperson is promoted without proper training and support and what should be done to assist the novice supervisor to be successful. Certain specific and enlightened actions assist a productive transition from hourly craft to management, and becoming an effective FLS.


The person who has been promoted should not be placed in a position to manage their former co-workers. While placing the new FLS with a crew and area they are intimately familiar with may seem like the round peg in the round hole, there are disadvantages to doing this.

The prevailing attitude among their former colleagues, now subordinates, will almost invariably follow the thought process of “one of us is in charge, and now we can really do what we want.” This is understandable. These craftspeople may have worked together for a number of years, and may hunt, fish, or bowl together, or may even be related. Seeing one of their own promoted, they may naturally assume life will be easier, and their new boss will cut them copious amounts of slack on a daily basis. This is a disaster waiting to happen, and should be avoided if at all possible. The new FLS will be forced to decide between long-forged friendships, and excelling at the job they were promoted to accomplish. They may do neither one well, and subsequently struggle to fulfill the role and antagonize their crew. The FLS shouldn’t be placed in a position which may be setting them up for failure from day one.

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