Effective coordination of people's activities is essential if an organization is to run smoothly and achieve its goals. In turn, coordination depends on the relationship between managers, supervisors and employees. If this relationship is characterized by poor communications, vaguely defined duties or hostility, a team or department within a company won't function very well.

By contrast, a positive and effective relationship promotes attainment of a company's objectives as well as promoting individual development and growth. Traditionally, companies have employed a "top-down" hierarchical model of management. In recent years, alternative approaches, such as "servant leadership," have also proven to be efficient ways of organizing work activity.

Manager, Supervisor and Employee: What They Do

Managers, supervisors and employees have distinct roles and responsibilities. A manager is responsible for directing the activities of her department or team. For example, a manager in the retail or restaurant industry is typically in charge of a single store or unit. Supervisors occupy an intermediate position between the manager and rank-and-file employees.

In a retail store, one supervisor might be in charge of inventory and stocking activities. In a restaurant, one supervisor might oversee the dining room while another is in charge of the kitchen operations. Experienced employees may take leadership positions to help supervisors oversee operations. Employees generally perform specified tasks or parts of a project.

Management and Employee Relationship: Engagement

You've probably seen or heard of managers who walk around a work area barking orders and finding fault with the work employees are doing. This approach doesn't work well in any organization. The relationship between a manager and employee is likely to be characterized by hostility and resentment that impedes communication and leaves subordinates lacking confidence in management.

For a department or team to accomplish the goals set by the organization, managers need to engage supervisors and employees by creating a positive and supportive work environment. Supervisors must view the manager as their go-to person when problems arise or a decision must be made that's beyond their authority. Likewise, employees must have confidence that managers and supervisors support them and are keeping them informed about changes and developments.

Basics Applicable to All Management Approaches

These are basics that apply as much to traditional top-down management approaches as they do to more innovative philosophies, such as servant leadership. However, the traditional approach vests decision-making and control of activities primarily by the manager with some authority delegated to supervisors. By contrast, the servant leader attempts to develop each employee's ability to act independently.

As the individual grows, the manager delegates more responsibility. The servant leader views himself as an enabler who seeks to make sure subordinates have the resources and training to achieve the goals of the group rather than an overseer who controls every aspect of the work at hand.

Manager and Employee: Roles

The relationship between management and employee will be positive or negative depending on how well members of the group, especially managers, carry out their roles. The manager must be a leader who provides overall direction and must inspire supervisors and employees to actively work to achieve the group's objectives. She is also a go-between. That is, she must communicate the organization's goals and desires to subordinates and convey employee concerns to others in the company.

All members of a working group must be kept informed about organizational changes and requirements. The manager is the primary contact for this purpose. In addition, managers need to monitor employees, provide training as needed and communicate their needs to higher-ups.

The ultimate decision-making authority for a department or team is the manager. It's the manager who must allocate resources, resolve problems and negotiate disputes among employees and supervisors. Although a servant leadership model promotes the delegation of many decisions, the final responsibility remains with the manager.