When I hire someone, the biggest question in my head is whether or not the applicant will fit into our organizational culture. There are nuances to the workplace - traditions and rituals that some people may not appreciate in their workplace. There is one thing, however, that every manager must possess: the ability to make tough decisions.
I don't mind making touch decisions, but I do dislike the difficult discussions that often follow them. Several years ago, I just started laying it out. "John, we're going to have a difficult discussion now." I give them a heads-up. I let them know so they don't feel as blindsided. I had a boss decades ago who fired me and I never knew it. We had a discussion and I left his office and went back to my desk. A half hour later, he walked by me and asked me what I was still doing there. That may sound rare, but it's not. I've seen it happen in my own library.
I've observed that the supervisors in the library field are often hesitant to have difficult discussions. There is a reason that stereotypes of librarians exist - many are very quiet, don't like confrontation and have a very tough time hurting anyone's feelings. The workplace is often very close. I, for instance, consider some of the employees at the library my friends. We talk on the weekends. Sometimes we go to the movies or out to dinner. When we are outside of work, I'm their friends, not their boss. Even so, giving a negative evaluation to someone with whom you've just had dinner is not the easiest thing in the world. It is this separation that is sometimes the problem. And this is my most recent problems.
My husband claims there are two Pennys - Business Penny and Home Penny. If he calls me at work, he is often greeted with a stern "hello" and a quick inquiry into why he is calling. I would never be so short with him in my private life, but I have difficulty switching from one to another. This is also why having my daughters intern at the library was a horrible idea. Business Penny has high expectations. Business Penny talks faster, moves faster and is ready for anything. Home Penny is quite the opposite.
So back to the problem. Poor management skills do not just affect your organization. They affect every organization with which yours has contact. Because I, for instance, am not a part of your organization, I can't do anything but watch. If I point something out, I'm overstepping my boundaries. If I don't point it out and it affects my library, I am not being watchful over my library's best interests. I'm sure there are times with groups that partner with my library do not agree with my actions but if they were to point it out, I may become defensive. Doing that is not the correct thing to do, but it would piss me off. So...who am I to criticize the management styles of another?
The easy answer is that I'm a Guerrilla Librarian. Before you point it out, I know that's not a valid argument, but it's one I use anyway. No point in telling me. I'm fully aware. It is common knowledge that I have this problem keeping my mouth shut. I lack the proper verbal filtering. These are just a few of my professional faults and I own them. But it still drives me crazy.
If I am dealing with a vendor and the salesperson does something rude or stupid, I'm quick to ask for their manager and tell them what they should do. However, I'm also the first one to recognize excellence and point it out to management as well. On a regular basis, library patrons visit my office, write me emails and call me to complain or praise. People like to know they are being listened to. Most times, if I disagree with what they are saying, I shut down. Lately, though, I've been trying to control the knee jerk and really listen. Maybe they are right and my initial reaction is completely wrong. I'd like this to be my natural reaction someday. Until then, though, I'll keep reminding myself.
None of this, however, solves my original problem. What do you do if someone your organization relies on makes management decisions that are ridiculous? Do you voice your opinion and potentially sever any further cooperation? Do you instead ask for the reasoning behind the decision? Do you just walk away and tell yourself that it's none of your business? What if it affects how your organization functions? Is it OK then? I don't have the answers to these questions - or I certainly wouldn't be wasting my time asking them.
Lately, I've been feeling like I'm stuck in a hole and cannot pull myself out. I stand there, knowing I'm in a hole but everyone else is in the hole, too and they can't help me. Some of them are in denial that holes even exist. Come of them just sit in the hole and read a book. No matter how much I scream, "hey, we're all in holes here!" nobody else seems to realize.
I predict a major shift in the management of some of the organizations with which I do business. Perhaps everyone will survive in their current positions but things will be different. Knowing this, I'm trying to prepare myself for the chaos that occurs whenever people realize they've been standing in a hole. We question why nobody told us, how we got there and how we get out. This is where real management skills are tested and I think I need to brush up on my personal mission statement and ready myself. Whenever external changes create internal uncertainty, managers need to stand tall and tell people that things are going to be OK. It should be something we are prepared for all the time - and I'm not. It's a state of mind, not something you can learn.
Instead of spending the weekend packing boxes for my impending move, I'm going to take the weekend and do some planning. If the external shift doesn't happen, I'll be in better shape on Monday to be a more effective manager. If it does happen, my guerrilla instincts will kick in and I'll have the tools I need to continue to lead my organization to success.
That being said, I'd love to hear your tips on how you prepare for impending change.
Have a great weekend!