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Managing to Stay Energized


After reading several recent blog posts on employee retention and management issues, I began to look at just what my feelings were towards the current state of library management trends.

This topic started with a post on Library Garden entitled Do we encourage our employees to leave? In this posting the author weighs the factors in the sometimes short turnover in staff and the self-promotional nature of librarianship. One wonderfully put statement was:

If your system sees people leave and then watches them flourish in another position, you shouldn’t brag that “they started off in this system.” It should raise questions as to why your system couldn’t seem to hold on to him/her.

Granted that sometimes people leave for reasons other than managerial dissatisfaction, but keeping a healthy atmosphere for growth is very important in any modern library. The administrative leaders in any organization must juggle the decisions they hold in their hands, but never forget that their human resources are the most essential. Much like a gardener, managers must know where best to plant the seeds they select, what type of support to give the budding seedlings, whether there are weeds to be tended to, and when it is time to transplant into a bigger pot. These skills may take years of experience to master but Meredith (Information Wants to be Free) outlined some wonderful ideas surrounding managerial environmental scanning.

In her post she cited a section from First, Break All the Rules:

The authors base the strength of a workplace on how employees can answer the following 12 questions:

“1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?
9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
10. Do I have a best friend at work?
11. In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?
12. At work, have I had the opportunities to learn and grow?”

She later points out that:

Many managers often don’t realize the impact they have on the morale of their staff. Some see their job as being about making sure people don’t screw up, giving permission for vacations, and doing yearly evaluations. They don’t see their job as being about support, empowerment and mentoring. And those managers are the sort that ambitious people are likely to run screaming from; regardless of pay or vacation or support for professional development. A bad work environment affects every other aspect of your life and no one wants to come home from work every day feeling defeated.

This is a very important point to consider. Though this shouldn’t be taken to mean that your only goal is to try and make everyone happy. The process should never be likened to the ends justify the means, if the “means” have resulted in a workplace ripe with curmudgeons and people anxious to jump ship. When this happens remember, if one person publicly states they can’t stand it here and want to leave faster than you can say “performance measurement,” odds are there are several others with similar feelings.

I would wonder how those 12 questions would work out if you gave each one the value of 10 points and had each employee either rate them 1-10 or just make them yes 0r no? If you fall below 100, it may be time to look around and find the areas for improvement. I talked about something similar in an earlier posting, when I contemplated how libraries could be analyzed in much the same method as a restaurant featured on the TV show Kitchen Nightmares. Though that sort of radical upheaval may not be effective everywhere, we should never be afraid to reflect upon the job we do and find the path to doing the best we can do–while feeling rewarded by the effort.

Maybe the Law of the Conservation of Energy hold true in management as well. If your isolated system isn’t as energetc as it needs to be to make progress, some new energy must be introduced or the system won’t change. Now where can you buy jumper cables?

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