What responsibility does a supervisor have for the workplace safety of subordinates? How do the risks of security employment compare with those in other vocations?
As a manager, there are several tasks one must perform outside of their daily duties regarding workplace safety, the most critical being insulating your subordinates; having been in the military, I understand this all too well. Managers are the outer, protective layer which deals with the bureaucracy and politics of the office, so that your employees do not have to deal with things outside of their pay grade, emotional outbursts (my computer doesn’t work!), and anything that takes focus away from their job.
Similar to the philosophy of praising in public and correcting in private, managers, regardless of the profession, need to adhere to the social contract of the world, in and out of the office. Good bosses deflect, great bosses protect.
Everyone has someone they answer to, regardless of the position. For subordinates, there is one job that applies to them, make their supervisors look good; in IT, this occurs when ticket queues are empty, and projects are completed on time. In information security, this is accomplished by enforcing protection measures and providing training, thus reducing the risk of attack unplanned downtime or data loss. Supervisors, on the other hand, have two jobs; they need to make their boss look good, as well as keep crap from falling onto their subordinates from higher up the food chain.
Finally, another excellent method of shielding your team from upsetting situations is knowing and reporting to the right people in different departments. For example, our customer service agents are not allowed to have any business-related conversations with our IT department; instead, they have to share their issue with their customer service manager, which then creates a ticket for us. Now, when one of our IT members walks to the restroom, they will not be bombarded with questions like, “can you turn up the brightness on my monitor (when it isn’t even plugged in).”
In security-oriented departments specifically, supervisors also have the responsibility of protecting their subordinates’ mental health, providing the training and motivation to act professionally, and effectively managing both time and resources to ensure that employees have a satisfactory work-life balance. In security roles, hacks and malware, for example, don’t wait until regular operating hours to strike; instead, you might often receive those dreaded 3 AM calls regarding a breach. Due to the complexity and stress-filled nature of security work, a supervisor needs to be able to monitor their employees for signs of fatigue or mental health fluctuations, as well as know how to properly motivate and train them so that every member of the team is contributing, reducing the strain on each employee.
Safety Responsibilities for Supervisors. (n.d.). Retrieved December 16, 2019, from https://www.ors.od.nih.gov/sr/dohs/HealthAndWellness/Pages/Safety-Responsibilities-for-Supervisors.aspx.