Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

How Well Do You Re-Present Others?

supervisors are key links when they re-present effectively.jpgOne of the key roles of supervisors and managers is to represent those above them and below them in the organizational heirarchy. Supervisors at every level are the conduits for communication back and forth.  They communicate to the next higher level on behalf of those they supervise and they communicate to their direct reports about information received from those higher in the organization.  All of it involves representing, or to say it another way, re-presenting.

When we communicate as a supervisor or manager, we need to present information in a way that speaks for the other person as if he or she was there to do it personally–and in the most effective manner possible.  

 As with any other supervisory or managerial task, we need to guard against errors:

  • Often we think we know the mental response of the listener about what we’re reporting, so we cater to those thoughts or feelings.  For example, we are supposed to communicate about a new policy we think might be unpopular, so we say: 

“Don’t shoot the messenger on this.”
“This wasn’t my idea, I’m just passing it along.” 
“I know you’re not going to like this, but I’m just telling you what I was told.”

if we are communicating upwards we might say:

“As usual, a few of the people are whining about how they don’t understand the need for the new policy.”
“I promised him I’d tell you that he isn’t happy about the decision, so I just fulfilled my promise.” 

If we don’t actually say dismissive or ridiculing words we express them in our tone or demeanor. I’ve often thought about how shocked, appalled, angry and disappointed people at all levels would be if they could hear how their sincere concerns, questions, directions and suggestions are re-presented by supervisors and managers.

  • We don’t communicate with the tone or emphasis intended by the person we are representing, which results in misunderstandings or unnecessarily bad feelings.

Some supervisors and managers over-dramatize the things they communicate about, to the point that people are angry or upset, even though that severity was not intended by the original communicator.

Other supervisors downplay the things they communicate, or treat them so casually the intended significance is lost.

There are times when you might think that toning down or tuning up a communication is much more likely to good results, but it is better to discuss that with the original communicator than to translate or interpret on your own.

  • We communicate differently according to our personal feelings about the person we are representing. If we like the employee or the person above us, we present their thoughts accurately and even put a good spin on them if needed. If we don’t like that person, we don’t communicate as accurately, or we say it in a way that is less likely to be well-received.
  • We aren’t clear about the communication ourselves, so we can’t communicate clearly. That is one reason to ask for communication in writing–not so it can be forwarded as is, but to be able to know more definitely what information the person wants us to forward–then, we can clarify it, paraphrase if needed, correct misunderstandings or errors, and communicate effectively rather than just efficiently.
  • We don’t represent at all because we never pass along the information. Employees think we have asked their questions and senior managers think we have expressed their reasoning, and both think we have expressed their concerns, but we haven’t.

 Sometimes that is caused by fear of being involved in unpleasantness, other times it is simply disinterest, and sometimes it is based on our own decision that the information isn’t worth passing along.  Whatever the cause, we have not fulfilled our responsibilities.

Supervisors and managers benefit from representing accurately and effectively. Results are more positive when we communicate with clarity and in a way that represents people positively when possible. And, we gain a better reputation in the long run. People know we are truthful and can be trusted to convey information without being either unnecessarily brutal or a spin-doctor.

The next time you are fulfilling your supervisory or managerial responsibility to convey information or questions, think of it as re-presenting that person’s thoughts, intentions, and their hopes for the final result of their communications. Speak for them, as if they were there and at their best. That’s what you’d want from those who represent you.

February 24th, 2008 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 3 comments


  1. Tina, what an excellent article this is! The idea of re-presenting the one for whom you are communicating is not one I have thought of in that way. I’ll unashamedly use it in my next staff meeting! I’ll give you credit though. Thanks again for some fresh thoughts. I’ve enjoyed every article and am looking forward to others.

    Comment by lmv | February 25, 2008

  2. Hey, Captain Rowe! This is a great site, but why isn’t there more about cops? lol 🙂 Seriously, this is really good information anyone could use. I think this entry is good for sergeants especially because we sometimes tend to pass along information from “on high” with a joking tone, which doesn’t make us look any better to the troops and only makes things worse. I’m going to watch that from now on.

    The pdf on supervising challenging employees looks good. How do I get it? Thanks a lot for all you do. Mike

    Comment by Mike B. | February 25, 2008

  3. Mike, I’ll send you the pdf right away. You’ll find it helpful. The next time I do a Supervising Challenging Employees class in the metro area, I’ll let you know. It’s for government work groups in general, but applicable to criminal justice. (That’s “cops”, Mike.) 🙂

    Comment by Tina | February 25, 2008

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