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Supervision of Students

The Role of a Supervisor

Students are a productive component of the College's labor force and should be treated as such. They can be extremely dependable and trustworthy, provide initiative and creativity, and maintain confidentiality in many offices on campus. Supervisors train, motivate, guide, and evaluate the student employee. Supervisors also serve as models for the development of solid work habits such as punctuality, dependability, cooperation, honesty, and efficiency. For many students, supervisors bridge the gap between home, the classroom, and the "real world."

The supervisory role can be frustrating at times. As supervisors, the work and the professional tasks involved in accomplishing that work are paramount. The fact that student employees do not always see the importance of their work may be frustrating.

It is the supervisor's responsibility to deal with imperfection and act to correct behavior that is incongruent with employment standards. Supervisors must act in these cases with prudence. A good supervisor must have many talents, not the least of which are communication and patience.

Although it may be difficult to establish a formal training program for student employees, good personnel practices require that every new worker be oriented to the organization of the workplace and trained to perform necessary tasks. The responsibilities of the student's supervisor are:

  • Orienting the student to his or her role in the department and the standards of behavior expected of employees.
  • Training in skills and procedures necessary to perform tasks.
  • Providing a space for working that is free from hazards.
  • Keeping communication lines open, clear, and constructive.
  • Setting a good example.
  • Treating student employees in accord with their rights, which are the same as all employees' as defined by applicable state, federal, and college regulations.
  • Outlining procedures clearly - assume nothing.
  • Being firm, yet flexible.
  • Making student employees feel important and needed.
  • Addressing problems (or potential problems) as they arise - do not let them build.

Students should be provided with specific job descriptions outlining expectations and responsibilities. Take the time to review tasks and to make certain your student employees receive proper training in order to accomplish the tasks. A procedural manual can be helpful in many situations.  Supervise their work closely, give them deadlines to meet whenever possible, and evaluate their performance often. A little bit of praise and encouragement can go a long way! Students can learn and benefit from the supervisor's expertise and constructive criticism. Whenever possible, increase the level of responsibility of your student employees. Remember, if you have been specific in outlining expectations to student employees it is easier to point to the same expectations if issues arise with performance of your student employees.

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Tips for the Good Supervisor

Establish clear goals. Provide training, performance expectations and ground rules. Develop a student employee manual.

Delegate! Assume that the students you have hired are competent and responsible. Provide them with the potential for learning and growth.

Set a positive example of professional, polite, and ethical behavior. If students witness a supervisor that is punctual and professional, students will learn to do the same.

Remember that student employees are students first. If there is a conflict between a student's academics and job, academics must come first. The student can and should however learn how to manage time so that the impact on the position is minimal. Make it clear what is expected regarding the commitment and how to notify you if he/she must be absent.

Show appreciation for exceptional work. Positive feedback, especially when given in front of one's peers, costs nothing and provides a quick, effective reward.

Allow for student input. Ask your student employees what they think of a certain project. They have a lot to offer!

Be an accessible supervisor. Tell students they are free to ask you questions and discuss concerns. Periodically ask them if they have any questions.

Be a student. Learn how to improve your skills. Attend workshops, take classes, and read.

Be a teacher. You most likely possess a great deal of knowledge and skills, so share these with your employees.

Encourage risk-taking and decision-making. Letting students know that you trust as well as believe in them helps to foster a sense of cohesiveness, which can lead to increased self-esteem. Please remember that this is a learning experience for the students you hire.

Communicate openly and honestly. A student should always know how he/she is doing.

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Poor Job Performance

There may be instances when the employee's work performance is not at an acceptable level.  In some cases you may want to try and work with the employees.  The following are possible reasons for poor performance, and suggested strategies for improvement:

Lack of knowledge of specific job duties or responsibilities. Provide additional training. It will be helpful to develop a more specific job description or manual to make job responsibilities clearer.

Lack of skills for tasks to be performed. Provide training on skill development. Another approach is to shift the person to a position where skills s/he does have can be utilized.

Personal problems affecting job performance. It may help to just be a good listener. It may also be necessary to refer the student to any number of campus resources if problems persist. Dartmouth Health Services, Safety and Security and the Dean of the College Office are just a couple of the campus resources available to students. Click on the links to learn more about several resources from which students can find assistance and support.

Interpersonal conflict between supervisor and employee, or between other workers or staff in the office. It is extremely important to develop open lines of communication. It may be necessary to involve a third unbiased party to mediate conflict and initiate communication. The Student Employment Office has assisted employers with these issues and remains committed to doing so.

General lack of motivation on the part of the employee. This can be more difficult to correct. Some suggestions which may help include re-emphasizing expectations of the position; providing frequent feedback on performance; varying the job responsibilities; or shifting the person to another position where skills will be better utilized.

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Tips for Employer Feedback

Address all issues immediately, kindly and directly. Do not wait until a problem grows or expands. If you see something that seems wrong, have a conversation with the employee as soon as possible. For example, if a student says something you consider disrespectful, ask her/him if the words used were intended in the way they were received and allow for dialogue.

Picture yourself on the same side of the table, not as an adversary.  While there is a place to retain your authority, showing concern for the employee and a desire to correct behaviors is important. An attitude of concern for the employee can often resolve conflicts before they begin.

Offer suggestions and allow opportunity for change.  Too often we expect overnight change from others, but is that a reasonable expectation? Offer helpful ideas as to how to keep the situation from arising again, and encourage change you do see!

Give positive feedback, too!  Don't wait until there is something you do not appreciate before you give feedback.  Encourage the very best in the students who work for you.

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A student employee is technically considered a "temporary part-time" employee and is thus not entitled to the same benefits as a full-time staff person. However, student employees should be treated fairly and courteously. If a student is unreliable or does not handle the assigned duties responsibly, it may be necessary to terminate the student for unsatisfactory performance. In most cases, the following progressive discipline guidelines are suggested in handling unsatisfactory performance.

Verbal Warning - Speak with the student and express specific reasons (with examples) for dissatisfaction. Suggest solutions. Establish a time frame for improved performance.

Written Warning - If the poor performance continues past the time established in the verbal warning, repeat the verbal warning and follow it with a written statement documenting the situation and a new time frame. Students need to understand what is expected of them and the consequences of continued poor performance.

Termination - If the student's performance still does not improve within the specified time frame, the supervisor should consider terminating the student's employment. Notice of dismissal should be in writing, addressed to the student, and may be accompanied by a verbal discussion. Suggest to the student that s/he seek assistance in locating a new position by searching the Jobnet database.

Immediate termination of a student employee is appropriate for gross misconduct, including actions threatening the safety of others, malicious use or theft of College property, actions that are inconsistent with directions received and falsification and/or forgery on time sheets and on other College documents.

If a student works through the end of the term and does not return to the department the following term, the department should end the student's job in Kronos by using the PA Smart Form (the e-system for student hiring & terminations). For assistance with the PA Smart Form, contact either you department administrator or your Finance Center.

Also, as workloads shift over the course of the academic year, it is possible that fewer student staff will be required and the number of student employees will need to be reduced. As soon as this determination is made, any affected students can be referred to the Student Employment Office where other job options will be provided. Students should be counseled that the release is not a reflection of work performance and that they will be given ample time to obtain another position before the termination date.

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Employment Verification

Written requests sent via US Mail (typically from either the Federal Office of Personnel Management or the National Conference of Bar Examiners) should be forwarded via Hinman Mail to Human Resources/SEO, HB 6042 for investigation and response.

Phone and email requests for salary information or employment verification (e.g. hire dates, end dates, or rates of pay) should be referred to THE WORK NUMBER®. This is a service of TALX Corporation that provides employees and ex-employees with an automated process to handle employment verifications.

Please note: While Dartmouth College does what it can to provide accurate employment history information for current and former student employees, our student employment records have limitations and may not accurately reflect the student's actual work history.

THE WORK NUMBER® does not release wage information without permission from the employee, nor do they supply qualitative information regarding performance, medical history, or reason for termination. If a current or former employee wishes for wage information to be released, they must follow the steps outlined in the instructions in this pdf document. (PDF, 104 KB)

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Requests for Personal Reference Requests

On-campus employers who receive a request from an off-campus agency or off-campus employer for a personal reference for a past employee are free to offer what you can for a personal reference. You are also free to decline to offer a personal reference if you prefer.

If you choose to serve as a personal or professional reference for a current or former student employee, please consider the following guidelines:

Be truthful and positive. Be honest with students. Decline requests if you can not offer a positive letter of reference, and suggest to the student that he or she seek another source of reference. Do not write negative letters of reference. A letter of reference should never include rates of pay, medical history, or reasons for the student leaving the position.

Requests for salary information or employment verification should be referred to THE WORK NUMBER®. This is a service of TALX Corporation that provides employees and ex-employees with an automated process to handle employment verifications. Questions about what may be appropriate or requests for review and guidance can be directed to an HR Consultant.

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Last Updated: 7/25/18