YS Manager's Corner - Our Place in Space

This is one in a series of posts about Youth Services management issues. We'll be looking at different aspects of working as a manager in YS including reflections, challenges and maybe a solution or two.

As managers we often have far more leeway in our schedules, responsibilities and commitments than the staff we supervise. This is not to say that we aren't working hard and putting in some challenging hours and desperately trying to balance things. 

It is simply to say that we often have more agency in choosing what we do and when. It’s important to stay very aware of this and to know that our teams are just as aware of our work – or any backing away from work  - that we are doing.

What are our larger responsibilities to our staff?  I think it is important that we work at the same level that we expect of our staff. That means working the same hours and not fudging on coming in later or leaving earlier, taking the same time on lunch breaks as the rest of the team we manage. Sometimes people in management and administration cite the stress of their difficult work as reasons to short hours. Taking advantage of the flexibility of our position is no excuse. We are not owed by our community of taxpayers – we owe them our attention and time.

It also means being a good communicator with team members if we are, on occasion, taking time off after working extra at outside meetings or events on behalf of the library. Let team members know in advance that we plan to take time off and get it on the schedule. And be fair and offer the same accommodation to staffers who also do the same.

Note: It's important to make sure our manager agrees with this. We might hear from our director that "You are on salary and need to work as many hours as the job demands". Here it can helpful to point out to a director that while that is true, routinely working well over forty hours points out the need for additional staff (but then that's another post!!)

There are other ways we honor our staff and our place in space as a manager - and a front-line leader. These include (but in no way are limited to) participating in programming, working in the night and weekend rotation, filling in extra shifts at the desk when staff are sick, vacationing or need time to offer a tour, outreach or program. Allowing staff to have first picks at vacation times; volunteering to take less attractive pre-holiday hours or weekends are all subtle ways to both lead and to honor people whose pay is often far less than ours.  

Pitching in on the least of tasks  - straightening shelves daily; cleaning the breakroom; helping to clean up after someone else’s program; counting handouts  - let’s our staff at all levels know that we care about their work and see it as valuable. Lip service is one thing; showing by our actions our understanding and appreciation of their work is another.  Our leadership in these areas helps staffers in turn value their work and know that because we manage we are not above the day to day.

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