Organizations differ in terms of structure, size, shape and their business activities. In some small businesses, there may be just one or two employees, whereas in others, there may be a greater number of employees. Businesses may need to recruit a supervisor or a manager, depending on the level at which the organization is and the number of individuals working there. A supervisor or manager is needed to oversee the operations, marketing, human resources and various other areas of a business. These are two important positions in an organization and are responsible for providing direction and guidance to the rest of the employees in the organization so that its goals and objectives are achieved. However, there are different roles and responsibilities of the supervisors and managers and it is important for organizations to understand these differences so they can determine whether both these posts are required within their organization or not.

Managers are those individuals who manage and look after the whole enterprise, while supervisors are those individuals who are leaders in the first-line management of the organization and hence, they are supposed to look after the operations and performance of the employees. In this article, the different roles and functions of managers and supervisors will be discussed and differentiated.

Definitions and meanings


The supervisor is usually assigned the role of an entry-level manager and is responsible for overseeing a small group of employees and making sure that they complete the tasks assigned to them in an efficient and thorough manner. Quite often, supervisors have previously held the same position as that of their team members, and so they are well aware of the details of the tasks and the tactics to complete them efficiently. The reason for their promotion may have been their exceptional conduct or leadership skills. Supervisors usually carry out the same tasks as their subordinates when they are promoted to the post of a supervisor.

The roles of a supervisor are usually internally focused, which means that they are pertinent to internal matters of an organization. For instance, supervisors may carry out plans for introducing new product placements in stores, or they may explain new customer service policies to their team members. Supervisors may also solve any issues that emerge in their teams, or may carry out training for new recruits.

In terms of the organizational hierarchy, the supervisor generally reports to the manager, while the manager has to report to the owner of the business. However, in smaller companies, the post of a manager may be absent, and so the supervisor may have to report directly to the owner of the business.

The tasks that are typically carried out by a supervisor are listed below:

  • Execute the plans created by the top management
  • Assign work-related tasks to the employees
  • Enhance the skills and competencies of employees by encouraging them to put in their best efforts
  • Solve issues raised by employees with respect to their jobs
  • Develop metrics for determining employee performance
  • Handle payroll issues being experienced by employees.


A manager is essentially responsible for managing the resources of an organization. A major part of his or her job is to make critical decisions regarding organizational resources, which comprise of finances, personnel, material, processes and equipment. In a large organization, the managers administer the supervisors of the organization and disseminate plans to them so that they can fulfill them with the help of their team members. If the role of a supervisor is absent in an organization, managers themselves oversee the work of the employees.

In contrast to supervisors, managers typically have externally focused roles. They are focused on the overall strategy of an organization and the way it is linked to the target market as well as the industry on the whole. Managers communicate with external stakeholders, which include business partners, suppliers, customers, etc. Managers usually develop a relationship with these stakeholders and gain their trust.

The key functions that are to be performed by a manager are: planning, organizing, recruiting, motivating, leading, controlling and coordinating. One of the most important responsibilities of a manager is formulating strategies and plans that help in attaining the objectives of the organization. Furthermore, managers have to coordinate with all departments in an organization to make sure that all of them are focused on attaining the same objectives and following the same vision. An organization has different managers for the different departments, for example human resource manager, production manager, sales manager, financial manager, operations manager, customer relationship management, etc.

Difference between supervisor and manager

Six key points of difference between supervisor and manager are listed below:

1. Meaning

A supervisor is a person who oversees the tasks being carried out by the employees and ensures that they complete the work assigned to them. On the other hand, a manager is a person who manages the resources of the entire organization.

2. Organizational level

A supervisor is employed at the highest position in the lower-level management, while a manager is the highest position in the middle level management.

3. Reports to

A supervisor is accountable to the manager regarding the performance of their team members, whereas a manager reports to the board of directors regarding the performance of their department or unit.

4. Focus

The role of a supervisor is internally focused, i.e. a supervisor has to look after only the internal matters of an organization. On the contrary, a manager has an external focus, which means that they have to look after not just their department, but also the external environment. They concentrate on the overall strategy and direction of the organization.

5. Function

It is a supervisor’s responsibility to oversee the tasks of the employees working as part of their team. In contrast, a manager is responsible for looking after the overall department or unit. In addition, it manages the different resources of the organization.

6. Right to recruit or terminate employees

A supervisor does not have the right to recruit or terminate any employee, though they can make recommendations in this regard. However, a manager does have the authority to recruit or terminate employees.

 Supervisor vs manager – tabular comparison

A comparison of supervisor and manager in tabular form is presented below:

Supervisor vs Manager
Oversees the tasks being carried out by the employees Manages the different resources of the organization so as to achieve its objectives
Organizational level
Lower level Higher level
Reports to
Manager Owners/Board of Directors
Internal matters at a limited level Internal matters as well as external environment
Look after the tasks of their team members Look after the department and the organizational resources
Right to recruit or terminate employees
Does not have this right, but can make suggestions Does have the right of hiring and terminating employees

Conclusion – manager vs supervisor

There are significant differences between the roles of a supervisor and a manager, as has been explained in this article. It is important for organizations to understand these differences so that they can determine the role they require for their organizations. Differentiating the two roles will ensure that organizations are able to assign the right person for the right position and exhibit efficiency and effectiveness while performing their various business tasks and activities.