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Supervising Employees in the Painting Industry

Vancouver’s Best Painters

The supervisor’s job at Canada’s Best Painters does not just involve the technical aspect of the job, but also the “people” part. This involves getting along with and motivating the employees as well as handling employee problems. Typically, crew members include both men and women of different ages and experience levels; it is amazing how differently they all think and react. It is a tremendous resource to have that kind of diversity, but it is also a challenge. The way to get the best out of such a diverse group is to listen to them, respect them, and understand their point of view.

To supervise a crew that does the best job for the company, the supervisor should be friendly to crew members but should not treat them like close personal friends. The crew members want the supervisor to be the boss, and they want to be the employees. It works better that way. When possible, share information with the crew members and encourage them to do the same with you. Shared knowledge builds loyalty and trust. Be loyal to your crew; if crew members know that you are always loyal to them, they will be loyal to you. Finally, never be too busy to laugh. Nothing helps get people through a crisis like a good laugh and a supervisor who is able to enjoy that laugh with them. At Vancouver’s Best Painters it is very important to laugh.

Motivation at Vancouver’s Best Painters

Motivated people will always perform better on the job. Motivation has dimension because it can be measured in terms of absenteeism, employee turnover, complaints, and the quality of work performed. The successful supervisor develops an understanding of human behavior and uses proven techniques to help motivate others. The factors listed below affect a worker’s motivation:

  • Wages
  • Fringe benefits
  • Physical working conditions
  • Company policy and administration of that policy
  • Interpersonal relations
  • Supervision

If one or more of these conditions are not met, workers can become dissatisfied and unmotivated.

Another challenge for a leader is to inspire or motivate workers to put in an effort on the job that is above and beyond just doing the job. Some simple practices can be used as incentives to motivate workers to higher levels of performance. The factors that help workers develop positive attitudes and act as incentives for higher achievement are:

Recognition: Acknowledge an employee who is an achiever and give that employee
recognition for a job well done.

Sense of Accomplishment: Assign tasks in such a manner that the employee sees the
contribution he or she has made toward the end result.

Opportunity for Advancement and Personal Growth: Let the employee know what the
potentials are for advancement within the company. Work with upper management to establish differing levels of prestige (importance) within the company.

Responsibility: With each level of advancement, there is a greater degree of responsibility. Let the employee know what these responsibilities are and how they benefit the employee and the company.

Sense of Job and Self Importance: Reinforce the importance of the job and the value
of the individual.

Challenging Work: Whenever possible, assign work that is a step above what the
individual usually performs. Let the employees demonstrate their capabilities; most people work better when confronted with a challenge. One suggestion is to give them a challenging job without prior direction from you. This puts the responsibility on them to define what they do well, determine for themselves where they need help, and ask questions.

Motivating Employees

New employees are bound to be enthusiastic and eager to show what they can do. Make sure that your relationship gets off to a good start. Introduce them personally to the other crew members and point out the qualifications they have and why they were brought on board. Explain what assistance you expect from the crew and emphasize that you appreciate their help. Spell out your expectations from the beginning, setting clear standards for performance.

If the new employee is an apprentice, designate another crew member to act as a mentor. Encourage feedback and allow for mistakes. If the employee is having trouble with an assignment, he or she should be able to come to you or to a mentor for help. Evaluate the employee’s performance fairly and reward excellence.

Motivating Longtime Employees

Longtime company employees typically possess the skills and technical expertise needed for the crew and/or company to accomplish its objectives. Because of their experience, these workers normally should be given some flexibility to make necessary changes within their jobs. By allowing them this freedom, you will demonstrate that you trust their judgment and respect their opinions.

Because of the rapid changes occurring in painting trade technology, some longtime employees may be lacking in some skills required by new work demands but may have skills that other crew members lack. In this situation, and if circumstances allow, it is sometimes prudent to split the work into team responsibilities so that all the necessary skills are present within the team. This is a good way to make the most of each person’s talents.

To keep longtime employees motivated and technically current, spend some time analyzing each employee’s existing strengths (for example, knowledge of the business, specific work skills, and personal qualities) and weaknesses (lack of specific knowledge or skill). Upper management can then work with you to plan a course of action suitable for both employer and employees that can stimulate and expose each employee to new methods or ideas. Consider enrolling employees in training courses, refresher courses, workshops, classes, and/ or seminars.

Handling Employee Problems

A supervisor must always be alert to recognize an employee with a problem such as morale, absenteeism, drug abuse, anger, etc. Once an employee has been identified as having a problem, the supervisor must take the proper action to address it. This begins by making the employee aware that you know a problem exists and having a discussion about ways to correct it. Commenting on an employee’s faults and deficiencies require skill and tact, but he or she must be informed when performance levels are marginal or unacceptable. This criticism should be delivered in such a way that it does not demoralize the individual. The supervisor must understand that some people may not react well to being criticized, and should be prepared with specific facts to support the criticism. When faced with a hostile or emotional person, the authority should be asserted fairly and firmly without reacting rashly. If the employee’s poor work habits persist after discussing the problem, let the person know (in a non-threatening manner) that it is unacceptable. Explain again exactly what the problem is and precisely what must be done to solve it. After receiving approval from upper management, give the person a time limit for correcting the problem, because there is a financial limit to how long you can put up with unproductive behavior. Should the employee be seriously troubled, he or she should be referred to someone who can help. Many companies have employee-assistance programs where professionals help employees deal with stress and personal crises.

There are number of painting employee problems that can be encountered by a supervisor. A few major ones are:

  • Poor attitude toward the work environment
  • Conflict among crew or team members
  • Absenteeism
  • Substance abuse
  • Sexual harassment

Poor Attitude Toward The Work Environment

If a person is to be a productive worker, he or she must have the skills to perform the required tasks and have a positive attitude in carrying out assignments. If the supervisor determines that an employee is not performing as expected, it must be determined whether the cause is the lack of the required skills or the existence of a poor attitude. If the cause is a lack of skills, training should be provided to enable the employee to become skilled in the specific task. The only alternative to this is to terminate the person from employment and hire someone who has the needed skills. This approach may be unproductive and more costly; however, in certain situations, it may be the only choice.

If the problem is one of poor attitude, the supervisor has the option of moving the worker from the current environment to another, more acceptable one. Another approach is to work with the employee to make changes in the current environment so that it is no longer perceived as an unmotivating factor.

Conflict Among Crew Members At Vancouver’s Best Painters

The supervisor should be aware of “turf battles” among crew members and analyze the situation carefully before making a decision to intervene. To handle a conflict among crew members, ask those who are in disagreement to paraphrase one another’s comments; this may help to establish whether they understand each another. The supervisor should then help both sides to work out a compromise, pointing out that members may sometimes have to admit they are wrong and help them to understand that the ability to change one’s position does not show weakness, but rather a great deal of strength.

Respect the experts on the team. Give their opinions more weight when the conflict involves expertise, but do not rule out conflicting opinions. Have the crew members agree on the underlying source of conflict, then engage in give-and-take, and finally agree on a solution or compromise to the problem.

If the problem is a specific employee’s inability to work with others, the supervisor needs to determine what is causing this condition. This can be done by directly confronting the individual and possibly those with whom the employee works. Once the cause(s) is determined, the supervisor has to decide if conditions can be changed so the employee will be able to work effectively. It may be that nothing can be done, or the supervisor may not be effective in obtaining a harmonious working situation. In this case, and with approval from upper management, the supervisor will need to transfer the employee to another crew or dismiss the employee from the company. This latter option should be used as a last measure and only after the worker has been informed of this pending option.


Absenteeism is a major problem. The most effective way of handling this problem is to have a clear and well-understood policy on this matter; companies that do this find it minimizes the absenteeism. When a new employee is hired, the employee should be informed about the policy in terms of how many absences are allowed, for what reasons, and what happens if this amount is exceeded. If the company does not have a written policy on absenteeism, the supervisor could possibly adopt one, requesting approval from upper management.

Once a policy is established, it must be implemented consistently and fairly. When it is, the company personnel will, in most cases, adhere to it. However, if the policy is not administered equally and some employees are given exceptions, then the policy will not be effective and the rate of absenteeism will increase. The supervisor will always have a few people who will be chronically late for work or who will leave early. The only option the supervisor has is to talk with the employees, explain the company policy, and enforce it accordingly. There are always exceptions to the rule, but if they are taken advantage of, the rules become meaningless.

Substance Abuse

If you’re a substance abuser you will not work long for Vancouver’s Best Painters…end of story. Substance abuse has become a serious problem in the workplace. Identifying employees who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol is important to prevent legal problems, accidents, and the spread of substance abuse throughout the crew or workplace. Studies have shown that employees who use drugs are:

  • One-third less productive and incur 300% higher medical costs than employees who do not use drugs.
  • Three times more sick benefits.
  • Five times more likely to file worker’s compensation claims.
  • Late three times more often; request early dismissal or time of twice as often.
  • Often sell drugs to other employees, or steal from co-workers to support their habits.

Because drinking is legally and socially acceptable, alcoholism is more common than addiction to illegal drugs. If an employee is coming to work late, often looks tired, regularly calls in sick, and does not do the quality of work he or she used to, there is a chance the reason is alcohol or drugs. A steady decline from formerly high-quality job performance is a red flag that something is wrong. Another sign of trouble is a feeling of discomfort when working with the individual. It is difficult to spot a substance-abusing employee when he or she is not under the influence, but the typical symptoms of active abuse are hard to miss:

  • Signs of alcohol abuse: Red, mottled facial skin, breath odor, clothes in disarray, slurred speech, inappropriately friendly or hostile behavior, loss of train of thought, and/or overly cautious movements.
  • Signs of cocaine abuse :A chronic runny nose and nosebleeds visits the restroom resulting in a change to a more lively mood, too talkative or incoherent, and/or speech and movement that seems speeded up.
  • Signs of heroin abuse :Weight loss and muscle wasting, sleepy eyes with contracted pupils resembling pinpoints, puncture marks on the arms or other parts of the body, dreamy off­in-space look, sleeping on the job, addiction to sweets, and/or extreme jitters.
  • Other signs of active alcohol or drug use :Personality change, unusually violent or passive behavior, glazed eyes, abrasions, bumps, bruises, lingering colds and flu, apparent poor nutrition, slowed reflexes and loss of coordination, inability to concentrate, dizziness or tremors, and/or memory loss or blackouts.
  • Work-related symptoms to watch for :Inattention or forgetfulness, erratic work quality and production, mood shifts, tardiness or absenteeism, clandestine discussions with non-employees or employees the worker has no reason to be talking to, sudden suspicious behavior or secretiveness, and/or legal problems that require time off.

The supervisor’s problem is being able to identify if alcohol or drugs are being used and/or abused. Even the use of some legal drugs can have an effect on the user which makes the employee unable to perform the job in a safe manner. Look for identifiable effects of alcohol or drug use as previously described. The problem is that almost all the effects are, at the onset, identical to those produced by conditions having nothing to do with alcohol or drug abuse. For example, disorders such as diabetes or asthma may require maintenance drug therapy that produces low-level side effects.

The supervisor at Vancouver’s Best Painters should be aware of changes in an employee’s behavior, and document problems with performance. Absenteeism, tardiness, poor performance, and interpersonal conflicts should all be noted in an employee log. Indicate specific names, dates, times, the nature of the problem, and corroborative observations. Of course, any such records must be unbiased and kept secure from other employees. If the supervisor suspects an employee has an alcohol or drug problem, an initial meeting should be held with the employee to advise him or her of unsatisfactory job performance, improvements that must be made, and potential disciplinary consequences. Do not discuss substance abuse; the issue is not what is causing the work problems, but the need to correct them. Sometimes a separate meeting with upper management and/or the personnel department may be needed to establish the nature of the problem and to determine the disciplinary course.

Should the employee admit or allude to a problem with drugs or alcohol, the supervisor and/ or upper management should refer the employee to a professional for help. If your company has an employee assistance program (EAP) it can provide a referral. If not, you can contact a local chapter of an outside organization such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention or similar organization for information about providers of this kind of service.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests of sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. By law, victims of sexual harassment have the means, and even an obligation, to demand equal respect and consideration on the job.

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. Employees should be informed of their rights, a complaint or grievance process should be established, and immediate and appropriate action should be taken when an employee complains.

Often an employee who behaves inappropriately to an employee of the opposite sex responds to clear, rational education. The supervisor must simply let the person know the rules of conduct have changed. Sit down with the offender, and in a friendly way, explain that his or her behavior is making the other person uncomfortable. Give examples of behavior that crosses the line: hugging, back rubs, sexual remarks, and so forth. The supervisor should gently lead the offender to the natural conclusion that the right way to impress and work well with colleagues of the opposite sex is to treat them with the same dignity and respect he or she gives to other workers.

Supervisors should report to upper management for appropriate action any harasser who refuses to heed their advice and continues a pattern of sexual harassment. This is important because the legal penalties for sexual harassment are severe; juries now routinely bring in multimillion-dollar awards for injured plaintiffs. Those judgments are usually assessed against the employer rather than the offender. Your employer wants and needs to know if someone is putting the company at risk for legal action.

Customer Relations

In addition to managing crew members, the successful supervisor must also get along well with customers, suppliers, and members of the other trades. Maintaining good customer relations on a daily basis is done by using the same basic communications and people management skills described earlier for establishing good employee relations.

If the customer has a complaint and/or is angry, remember to always treat him or her with courtesy and respect while you solve the problem. If you adopt the attitude that the customer’s complaint is legitimate and you are there to get to the bottom of it, an unprofessional confrontation may be avoided. Customers need to feel that they are walking away with something more than just the opportunity to blow off steam. They want their complaint heard, and they want some measure of satisfaction that you are taking action. Some guidelines for handling customer complaints are:

  • Hear the customer’s complaint.
  • Recognize that a problem exists.
  • Empathize (put yourself in the customer’s place).
  • Get all the information.
  • Make a judgment.
  • Take action.

Equal Employment Opportunity

Supervisors should be aware that employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This applies to private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions that have fifteen or more employees. The federal government, private and public employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees for apprenticeship and training also must abide by this law.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing the Title VII laws. It is illegal under Title VII to discriminate in the following areas:

  • Hiring and firing
  • Compensation, assignment, or classification of employees
  • Transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall
  • Job advertisements
  • Recruitment
  • Testing
  • Use of company facilities
  • Training and apprenticeship programs
  • Fringe benefits
  • Other terms and conditions of employment

Under the law, pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions must be treated the same as any other temporary medical disability.

Title VII prohibits retaliation against a person who files a charge of discrimination, participates in an investigation, or opposes an unlawful employment practice. Employment agencies cannot discriminate in receiving, classifying, or referring applications for employment or in their job advertisements. Labor unions cannot discriminate in accepting applications for membership, classifying members, referrals, training and apprenticeship programs, or job advertisements. It is illegal for a labor union to cause or try to cause an employer to discriminate. It is also illegal to cause or try to cause a union to discriminate.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 requires employers to prove all employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. Nevertheless, an employer who singles out individuals of a particular national origin or individuals who appear to be or sound foreign to provide employment verification may violate both the Immigration Act and Title VII.