I was a de facto 'senior' member of a group of 5 - not recognised by title or salary but I knew much more than the others, was the "go to" person for everything, etc.

Then this was formalised by making me Supervisor (with explicit line management responsibilities) with an increase in salary. This was in response to me having an offer from a different company. But it was really just a recognition of the role I had been carrying out anyway. On the org chart you could say I was "inserted" as supervisor between the others and my boss. So now the others would report to me.

Now I am the line manager of my former peers, and (unlike in most of these situations!*) they have accepted it, and they look to me as their 'boss' to set direction for them, etc. (*I say unlike most situations, as I've more often seen it that former peers refuse to accept the authority of the 'new boss', which is a much easier problem that I would be able to handle!)

My problem is that my boss - who was the boss of all of us, but is now just my boss and their "boss's boss" - doesn't seem to give me the authority to make decisions as a manager.

A couple of examples:

  1. I needed to invoke the disciplinary process on one of the people who report to me, for a relatively minor infraction but still one that needs to go through HR (I would rather prefer to deal with it informally if possible, but it reached the HR-involvement level of severity). My boss insisted on carrying out the process and cut me out of the discussion. That's pretty undermining to the report's perception of me as their manager isn't it?

  2. One of my reports (different person from 1) asked if they could leave 1.5 hours early due to "specific unusual circumstance" to which I agreed having taken into account the surrounding circumstances. My boss then called me out over it saying I should have turned it over to him and he would have refused, I didn't have the right to approve that and the report should have made the time up instead of just leaving early and being let off. (In response to this I worked the extra 1.5 hours rather than ask her to make it up, to make the point to the boss.)

How can I talk to my boss, (or HR, maybe?) about this situation? I want to be able to exercise responsibility as a full manager, but if not possible I'd like to get some acknowledgement from my boss.

  • 5
    "This was in response to me having an offer from a different company" - is that offer still open? If not, you might want to consider finding another, as your boss is unlikely to change. Sep 23, 2019 at 6:31
  • 3
    @Mawg Something not going right? Time for a new job of course! Sep 23, 2019 at 7:06
  • 1
    That does, sadly, seem to be my standard response. Must be the contractor mindset. :-) WHat's your solution? Sep 23, 2019 at 7:11
  • Are you the only direct report of your boss left?
    – Myles
    Sep 23, 2019 at 21:12
  • 1
    @Mawg I turned down that offer (I didn't handle the process very well, I feel in retrospect) because I was in two minds about it anyway due to feeling obligated to my current company but then there were promises... the other offer was for an individual contributor role, not as a line manager.
    – c2303981
    Sep 24, 2019 at 20:09

3 Answers 3


Have a talk with your boss about it.

Goal of the meeting would be to clarify your new roles and responsibilities and write them down. Typically the responsibilities (and authorities) of a real manager include hiring, dealing with problems, career development, administrative approvals, salary management, performance reviews, work processes and procedures, determining work break down and assignments, etc.

Make a list of these that are relevant for your line of work and go through them one by one with your manager. For each one you can determine

  1. This is your responsibility
  2. This is your manager's responsibility
  3. This is transitioning, i.e. it's eventually yours but at the moment needs oversight and confirmation until you can do it well on your own.

"Transitioning" is perfectly normal and typical helpful. All new skills need some learning so it's a good idea to keep the training wheels on for a while, but it should be clear what the criteria of self sufficiency are.


There is often a difference between a Supervisor and a Manager.

Just with your examples:

  1. Once a matter reaches HR, typically full managers get involved. There are a few different reasons, but it comes down to things like the fact they may have undergone specific training to deal with these issues.

  2. Maybe this could have been your responsibility. Or maybe the manager is trying to make sure you are not being exploited.

How can I talk to my boss, (or HR, maybe?) about this situation? I want to be able to exercise responsibility as a full manager, but if not possible I'd like to get some acknowledgement from my boss.

You're not a full manager. You're a supervisor. As you said:

Then this was formalised by making me Supervisor ... But it was really just a recognition of the role I had been carrying out anyway.

If the discussion was around formalising a role that your were already filling then I don't understand why you'd expect to have additional duties beyond what you had before.

Firstly, you should really decide if you want to be a manager or a supervisor. Dealing with salary reviews, and HR, and leave etc., are not things that everybody enjoys or everybody wants.

If you are unclear what your roles are now, you do need to approach your manager and seek clarity.

Just as a background, I have served in quite a few roles, and even within the same organisation different managers will delegate different levels of responsibility to supervisors. It's not always down to the capability of the supervisor, it can be managerial style, or based upon what the team needs.

  • This over the other answer, +1
    – Sandra K
    Sep 23, 2019 at 13:25
  • I can understand that a full manager has to get involved in some areas of HR involvement. I'm surprised that I would be "cut out" of the process at that point, though.
    – c2303981
    Sep 24, 2019 at 20:06

Spent a few years in a similar situation. There are many responsibility of a leader, identify what your manager will provide the team (disciplinary action and time off approval so far) and fill in the rest (coaching, skills enhancement, part time psychologist, strategy, communication).

Provide your team with what they need to thrive in the situation they are in. This includes learning exactly how your manager performs the services they provide to your team so that you can help increase the odds of getting the time off they need approved.

Use value as your north star. The value you provide your team will dictate how they perceive you. The value your team brings to the organization will dictate how leadership sees you. The value you bring to your manager by doing the things they don't want to do or don't have time to do will dictate how your manager sees you.

  • Great point about value. It's also why the team is happy to be supervised by the OP, because they value what the OP brings to the table. Sep 23, 2019 at 14:59

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