EFFECTIVE AND LESS-EFFECTIVE FIRST-LINE SUPERVISORS* M. C. AGARWAL The...
EFFECTIVE AND LESS-EFFECTIVE FIRST-LINE SUPERVISORS*
M. C. AGARWAL
The study investigates the biographical and psychological characteristics of those first-
line supervisors, who have been rated either very high or very low by their seniors. First-
line supervisors are the people, who have direct contact with workers and are responsible
for their work. The study was conducted in a large Engineering Industrial Unit of Bombay.
Seniors' ratings were obtained on a rating scale, prepared for the purpose. All the items of
the scale were found significant at 1 per cent level, based on correlational method of item
analysis. The final analysis was done of the scores of 20 effective and 20 less effective first-
line supervisors who occupy the two extremes of the continuum of the rating scale. It was
found out that effective first-line supervisors perceive that their job-performance is considered
by their seniors better while the less-effective do not feel so. No significant difference was
found between effective and less-effective supervisors on the characteristics such as age,
education, previous work experience, motivation and attitudes.
Dr. M. C. Agarwal is Assistant Professor at the National Institute for Training in
Industrial Engineering, Vihar Lake, Bombay 400 087.
Introduction
biographical as well as other psychological
characteristics of those first-line supervisors,
First-line supervisor is the person imme-
who have been rated either very high or
diately responsible for the work of produc-
very low on the rating scale by their seniors.
tion and maintenance workers, in an indus-
trial organisation. He exists under a variety Research Methodology
of names in different organisations. Some of
his titles are: Chargehand, Technical As-
Sample: The study was conducted in a
sistant, Superintendent, Foreman, Supervi-
large Engineering Industrial Unit of Bom-
sor, and First-line supervisor, etc. He has bay. Thirty-one seniors of all the first-line
direct contact with workers. He is the per-
supervisors were selected to rate them on a
son who sees the plans and policies of the scale. These seniors had formal authority
management being implemented. He is the over first-line supervisors. The analysis was
management to the rank-and-file workers. done on 40 first-line supervisors from the
Hence his role is very important in an indus-
total, comprising of 20 effective and 20 less-
trial organisation.
effective first-line supervisors. These less-
First-line supervisors have to keep good effective and effective first-line supervisors
relations with workers as well as with their occupy the two extremes of the continuum
seniors. Since they have to meet the expec-
of the rating scale.
tations of both the groups, they find it very
Tool: A 5 point Likert type rating scale
difficult, at times, to adjust themselves to was prepared to know the effectiveness of
various situations. The effectiveness of first-
first-line supervisors by their seniors in terms
line supervisors depend upon their relation-
of job and their dealings with others such
ship with their seniors and workers. The as seniors, colleagues and workers. The cor-
purpose of the study is to know the views relational method of item analysis was used
of seniors about these first-line supervisors. to determine the internal consistency of the
How seniors rate them for their effective-
scale. All the items of the scale were found
ness? An attempt is made to distinguish the significant at 1 per cent level.
* The manuscript is a part of author's Ph.D. thesis, awarded by Tata Institute of Social
Sciences, Bombay.

306
M. C. AGARWAL
Procedure: Each senior was called sepa-
the rating scale of 20 less-effective super-
rately to fill up the rating scale. They were visors is 32 to 54 and 79 to 97 for the
informed the purpose and scope of the effective ones. The lowest and the highest
study. They were also requested to rate their scores on the scale range from 22 to 110.
subordinates in an unbiased manner, as the The mean score of the group of all first-
study was for an academic interest.
line supervisors is 67.03 with S.D. of 13.26.
The mean score of 20 effective first-line
Analysis and Discussion
supervisors on the rating scale is 87.3 with
S.D. of 6.1 and the mean score of 20 less-
An attempt is made to know whether effective first-line supervisors on the rating
effective and not-so effective first-line super-
scale is 48.05 with S.D. of 5.94.
visors differ from one another on any of the
biographical and other characteristics. Forty Biographical Characteristics of Effective
first-line supervisors are selected from the and Less-Effective First-line Supervisors
total, comprising of 20 effective and 20 less-
effective firstline supervisors. These effective
The biographical and other characteristics
and less-effective first-line supervisors oc-
are compared statistically to know the diffe-
cupy the two extremes of the continuum of rence between less-effective and effective
the rating scale. The range of the scores on first-line supervisors. It is given in table 1.
TABLE 1
x2 DIFFERENCE IN BIOGRAPHICAL AND OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE AND LESS-EFFECTIVE
FIRST-LINE SUPERVISORS
Level of
Characteristics
Effective and
x
df
less-effective
2
significance
Age
L.E.
5.94
5
NS
E
Education
L.E.
7.60
5
NS
E
Previous work-experience
L.E.
6.40
4
NS
E
Years of present service
L.E.
6.64
5
NS
E
Salary
L.E.
6.04
3
NS
E
Feeling of less authority
L.E.
.15
1
NS
E
Adequacy of information
L.E.
0
1
NS
received from seniors
E
NOTE: (NS) denotes not significant, (L.E.) denotes less effective, (E) denotes effective.

EFFECTIVE AND LESS-EFFECTIVE FIRST-LINE SUPERVISORS
307
The table indicates that no statistically do not contribute to get higher or lower
significant difference is found, when the ratings by seniors.
biographical characteristics of less-effective
and effective first-line supervisors are com-
Effective and Less-Effective First-Line
pared. These characteristics, which are not Supervisors on Other Characteristics
different in the two groups are age, educa-
tion, previous work-experience, years of
The statistical difference between less-
present service, salary, feeling of less autho-
effective and effective first-line supervisors
rity and adequacy of information received on other psychological characteristics are
from seniors. In other words these factors given in table 2.
TABLE 2
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE OF VARIOUS CHARACTERISTICS OF LESS-EFFECTIVE AND EFFECTIVE
FIRST-LINE SUPERVISORS
Mean
Psychological
Source of
Sum of
Characteristics
Variation
df
Squares
Squares
F
P
(Variance)
Motivation
Between means
1
11.01
11.0
.0815
NS
within groups
38
5126.28
134.9
Self-Perception
Between means
1
122.40
122.4
4.72
<.05
(Seniors)
within groups
38
984.20
25.90
Self-Perception
Between means
1
0
0
0
NS
(Workers)
within groups
38
737.01
19.39
Self-Perception
Between means
1
2.40
2.4
.296
NS
(Colleagues)
within groups
38
307.99
8.1
Management
Between means
1
2.40
2.4
.34
NS
(Attitude)
within groups
38
267.90
7.05
Supervision
Between means
1
17.60
17.60
3.04
NS
(Attitude)
within groups
38
219.64
5.78
Employees
Between means
1
9.0
9.0
.805
NS
(Attitude)
within groups
38
424.84
11.18
Human Relations
Between means
1
7.00
7.0
.987
NS
Practices
within groups
38
269.61
7.09
(Attitudes)
The above table shows that there is no first-line supervisors have equal amount of
statistically significant difference between motivation toward their job and have simi-
less-effective and effective first-line super-
lar self-perception about their performance
visors in their motivation, self-perception as as viewed by workers and colleagues. Less-
viewed by workers, colleagues and their effective first-line supervisors have similar
attitude toward management, supervision, attitudes toward management, supervision,
employees and human relations practices. employees and human relations practices as
In other words less-effective and effective effective first-line supervisors have. This is

308
M. C. AGARWAL
contrary to a study1 in which the authors Conclusions and Implications
find that high and low-level supervisors
differ significantly in attitudes towards Less-effective and effective first-line
several aspects of their jobs. High-level supervisors are not significantly different in
supervisors responded favourably to manage-
biographical and other characteristics such
ment functions while low-level supervisors as (i) age (ii) education level (iii) previous
identified more with work groups and were work-experience (iv) years of present service
less critical of workers.
(v) salary (vi) feeling of less authority (vii)
The only significant difference found adequacy of information from seniors.
between less-effective and effective first-line
There is no significant difference between
supervisors is in their self-perception about effective and less-effective first-line super-
their job-performance as regarded by their visors in their motivation toward work, their
seniors. It means effective first-line super-
attitude toward management, supervision,
visors perceive their job performance as employees and human relations practices;
regarded by their seniors better than less-
and their self perception relating to their
effective first-line supervisors. This also
shows that effective first-line supervisors are job performance as viewed by workers and
aware that their seniors regard their job colleagues. The only significant difference is
performance good, and less-effective first-
that effective first-line supervisors perceive
line supervisors feel that their job perfor-
that their job-performance is considered by
mance is considered unsatisfactory by their their seniors better, while less-effective first-
seniors.
line supervisors do not feel so.
1. John M. Pfiffner, and Robert C. Wilson, "Management-mindedness in the Supervisory
ranks: A study of attitudes in relation to Status". Personnel, 1953, 30, 122-125.
The Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. XL1, No. 3, (October 1980)