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Guidelines for supervising people

By Chemical Engineering |

Based especially on FRI’s productivity statistics for 2010 and 2011, I was nominated for the ChemInnovations Plant Manager of the Year Award. On November 13, I attended the Awards Banquet, but I lost the award to a very worthy candidate — Mr. Chris Witte of BASF Freeport. Here is the acceptance speech that I never had a chance to give: I started supervising people at age five. The neighborhood needed a sports organizer. For the next 12 years, games were played every day after school and all weekend long. In college, I was the leader of every project group that I was assigned to, even though I preferred to follow. At my first job assignment in 1974, I had two technicians to supervise. For the 38 years thereafter, I led R&D groups of technicians and engineers — as many as 42 at a time. Supervising people becomes more difficult every year. Laws and court rulings protecting employees become more constraining every year. In 2010, American universities graduated 6,000 chemical engineers and 40,000 attorneys. Every dismissed employee has seven hungry attorneys lined up to represent her or him. Even if an employer does everything right with a non-productive subordinate, that company should still anticipate a lawsuit.…
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