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What does a Laboratory Supervisor do?

By Ian Christopher Abrams
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A laboratory supervisor works in a laboratory environment that is either independent or part of a larger entity and performs duties that enable the laboratory to function on a day-to-day basis. Unlike a lab technician, a laboratory supervisor has significant managerial duties and responsibilities. Topics like safety protocol, disciplinary action, and performance appraisal all fall under the laboratory supervisor job description. In a hospital setting, for example, the laboratory supervisor plays a role as liaison between hospital administration and laboratory staff and is often required to make staffing decisions like hiring and firing.

Since a laboratory supervisor works on-site, she is also expected to perform many of the same tasks as a technician. She usually must directly apply her technical knowledge and background in the sciences on a daily basis. She will also oversee the work of others.

A significant portion of laboratory supervisor duties focuses on human interaction. The laboratory supervisor must use her communication skills to ensure that management's practices are being followed. The laboratory is a dynamic environment where various workers with different personalities are attempting to work towards a common goal, and it is the responsibility of the laboratory supervisor to make sure that all workers have this goal in mind and do not behave in ways that are counterproductive.

In cases where disciplinary action is required, the laboratory supervisor has to be able to convey that action and the purpose behind it without unduly intimidating the worker. Being too rough may cause resentment or hurt feelings or otherwise cause an unsatisfactory relationship between employer and employee. Likewise, it is the duty of the laboratory supervisor to offer praise and encouragement when deserved to promote a positive work environment.

The laboratory supervisor salary is higher than the salary of a technician with fewer responsibilities, but significantly more work experience and education may be required for the position. Facilities with a lot of departments, like hospitals, may choose to promote laboratory supervisors from within to ensure that they have demonstrated the required competence for the job. In all cases, the laboratory supervisor knows enough about what goes on in the lab to monitor activities and provide specific feedback on the work habits of everybody she is responsible for overseeing. This comes from a combination of real-world laboratory work experience and higher education and training in the specific science or sciences being employed in the laboratory. The laboratory supervisor often has certifications from scientific organizations obtained through demonstrated competency, and these certifications enhance her qualifications to supervise.

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