Management vs Supervision

By Sean Stevenson – Latest Revision March 30th, 2021

Understanding Management vs Supervision

As a business expands, it requires greater separation of responsibilities.  Management vs supervision is a prime example of this.  They both can add much-needed layers to the overall structure of a growing organization.

Defining the duties and expectations of both roles can be a daunting task.  Even a seasoned business owner can mistake the similarities between these two roles.  This can be misleading.

Management and supervision are entirely separate entities.  If you aren’t sure of their exact differences, don’t fret.  This article will classify each for you in simple terms.

Defining Management vs Supervision

Defining Management

In a business setting, the meaning of management is to handle, or direct, the efforts of others towards a common purpose. 


A manager is put in charge of directing the operations of a single department.  Overseeing a larger process and taking control of its minutiae is the hallmark of effective management. 

Many managers are often expected to create goals that positively impact the entire company.

Defining Supervision

Conversely, supervision in a business setting would mean taking direct charge and oversight.  In this regard, a supervisor is typically overseeing a team of employees. 

As they perform routine tasks and procedures, the supervisor will interact with the team to ensure productivity remains high.  Supervisors are also often charged with ensuring the safety of employees within the workplace.


A supervisor is directing a team of employees as they perform linework.  He or she is making certain that proper safety procedures are being followed. 

The quality of the work itself is also scrutinized by the attending supervisor.  It must be up to standard.  Disciplinary action may be taken if there is blatant negligence involved during routine production.

Key Takeaways

  • A manager decides upon how tasks and objectives will be performed. 
  • A supervisor is focused upon overseeing the execution of work-related procedures in real-time. 
  • In most companies, there will be at least some overlap between these two roles.
  • A smaller company in particular, may have the manager(s) and supervisor(s) working closely together to ensure maximized efficiency.

Further Details – Supervisor

In terms of a hierarchy, in most businesses, the supervisor ranks below the manager. 

Interestingly, a supervisory position is often considered the first “rung” of management experience that an employee may have.  It represents an excellent position to both learn and grow as a professional.  Moreover, it can lead to further promotions in the future.

It is common for the supervisor to have been an employee within the same department they supervise.  This helps to ensure that the supervisor is familiar with the work being done, and qualified to oversee its operations.  Moreover, it makes for a smoother transition, since everyone on the floor will already know the supervisor on a personal level. 

Company policy and the standards of work expectations involved, will already be fluently understood by a supervisor that was promoted internally.  This represents a huge advantage in terms of recruitment practices.

In general, the oversight of the supervisor extends to a team of individuals who are from the same department.  Typically, these individuals will all be doing the same work together. 

To excel, the supervisor must ensure that everyone stays focused on their tasks and performs at optimal levels.  Moreover, a supervisor must assign additional work to outperformers, so that everyone remains continuously productive. 

In general, a supervisor is to keep everyone pushing in the same direction.  To this end, they must also work to keep morale high.

Further Details – Managers

A manager is invested with more authority in their official capacity, as opposed to a supervisor.  The resources and materials of a company are actively guided by the manager’s hand.  These must be allocated as efficiently and effectively as possible, so that the organization may thrive.

When making use of productive capabilities, a manager must be decisive in nature.  They must actively decide where to invest budgetary funds.  This is a heavy burden that can dictate the future of the entire company. 

Further, managers often have a key role in deciding how to conduct recruitment efforts and who to hire. 

They must also consider disciplinary action for employees who commit misdemeanors – up to and including termination proceedings. 

Since managers are given such extraordinary powers and responsibilities within the workplace, they are often required to have a great deal of insight into the nature of business practice.  Indeed, the greater scope of operations requires that the manager align themselves with the goals of the organization.  They must have the capability to understand and reach organizational objectives intuitively.

These additional responsibilities and insights are where a manager exceeds the duties of a supervisor.  Undoubtedly, the supervisor is important.  However, it is the manager who is a key engine and driver for the organization behind the scenes.

Through use of business strategy and tactics, a manager has the agency to oversee operations in their entirety.  In this sense, creating heightened productivity is a matter of objectively improving the existing business process.  This requires a sustained and focused effort over time.

Management vs Supervision – Educational Requirements

Management as opposed to supervision, are somewhat at odds in terms of education.

The prevailing perception is that management tends to require additional education.  At the very least, many companies have training programs in-house, which help to mold prospective employees into managerial talent.

There is a definite “white collar” sensibility involved with many management positions.

Conversely, supervisors tend to be viewed as more “blue collar” in their daily operations.  They tend to require less training and education overall as a result, as opposed to managers. 

A supervisory position tends to require someone who is distinctly familiar with the productive process.  Ideally, someone who has worked under the same conditions as the individuals they will be supervising.

This ensures that the supervisor is able to oversee a team perform their day-to-day operations.  They will also be capable of assisting them if needed.

Hiring Managers vs Supervisors

A simple way of understanding the position you are hiring for, is to list the regular duties and responsibilities that will be involved within the position.

For managerial roles:

  • This person must be able to fire and hire workers as needed.
  • He or she must be able to direct monetary resources along with personnel as efficiently as possible.
  • Must have critical thinking, reading, and writing skills.
  • Should be an excellent orator and communicator.
  • Must generate important corporate reports with excellent attention to details.
  • Should have a strategic mindset, and be capable of aligning themselves with organizational values.
  • In general, ought to be able to make important decisions regarding entire departments, groups of people, equipment, and business finances, in a way that furthers the interests of the organization.

If these traits are what is needed, then you are looking for a manager.

Managers can be hired from outside of the company.  In fact, it is advisable to do so, as they will be more impartial when making important decisions that will affect the company.

For supervisory roles:

  • This person must already be competent in the production roles they will oversee.
  • They must already understand compliance and quality requirements within the company.
  • Ideally, this individual should be capable of filing direct reports that detail each shift they oversee.
  • A supervisor should display a high level of effort towards ensuring optimal outcomes in production.

In practical terms, a supervisor should be hired from the floor.  This saves both time and effort in finding a qualified candidate.  Moreover, it ensures that they already have detailed knowledge of the work that they will be overseeing.

Management vs Supervision – Job Descriptions

Detailing the job descriptions of managers as opposed to supervisors can take time to craft expertly.  Obviously, you want the information to be detailed, without scaring off prospective employees.  You also want the descriptive details to help new hires to better understand their new roles.

Here are some key phrases and helpful words to include in your descriptions:


  • Overseeing staff.
  • Developing and organizing production schedules.
  • Training new and existing employees.
  • Evaluating productive progress.
  • Improving operational logistics.
  • Monitoring materials, expenditure, and supplies.


  • Managing employees / staff.
  • Outlining departmental activities.
  • Monitoring productive efficiencies.
  • Managing company resources and financials.
  • Evaluating cost-benefit analysis.
  • Produce budget reports.
  • Lead operational logistics.
  • Hire and evaluate new employees.
  • Produce employee performance reviews.
  • Create business strategies to meet organizational objectives.

In general, the manager’s position would require a more nuanced skillset.  Conveying the importance of this in the description is key.  This will ensure you get the right people who have the right mindset during the application process. 

Moreover, you ideally want them to have previous -and extensive- industry experience in a managerial position.

The supervisory position will require in-house knowledge of the production process.  This makes hiring people from the floor ideal.

Management vs Supervision

Whether management or supervision, both positions afford huge opportunity.  As an employer, you gain an important asset that can greatly increase the wealth of your business.  As an employee, you gain the opportunity to become a more successful professional -and perhaps even a new career.

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