Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The long view

Well ensconced in my top 11,000 work irritations is one best exemplified in the busy evening I had at the front desk of my library with Dave, whose name I have randomly scrambled, but having only four letters it came out pretty much as it does when you spell it properly. We were very busy. At one point he was doing five card registrations in a row while I ran a more rapid stream of patron interactions over on my side of the desk. I tried to tell him about all the tiger documentaries I have been watching, but by the time I could remember what fascinating Siberian tiger anecdote I was in the middle of telling him about, new people were at the desk needing help. In our first hour at the desk we had one lull, for about a minute, which, of course, was the only time a manager walked by.

The manager chirpily said "Maybe you'd like to bring something out to the desk to work on?"

I don't talk about the failings of managers much here on my blog for two reasons. One, the discussions of the failings of managers is so enormous and toothsome that it would devour this blog whole, and, two, as exemplified in "one", my authority issues make me unable to see these issues in a reasonable, measured, and fully sympathetic way.

But somehow I wanted to tell you this story, so I figured I'd better try and buck up and put on my very wise person's glasses. So I'll try.

The problem, as I see it here, is that we (the workers at my library, human beings in general), see whatever is just before us as the whole story. We think a single glimpse, a moment in time, tells a far greater story than it really does. So when my manager comes upon Vade (oh, it scrambled better this time!) and I chatting amiably at the front desk, she has a huge piece of evidence for us being idle slackers. She could know us, or trust us, or think about the time of day and the actual patterns of the library. She could see how many people are there in the building and what that might mean. She can even hold her tongue and check back a few times if it's really getting to her. But that single moment is too huge, so real for that second that it clouds a reality that's larger, and longer, and truer. And so she fails. She misunderstands the night, the library, and the excellent work we are doing. She suggests we do something that will make our job performance worse, and she errs and alienates and loses respect.

Now you wonder where are the wise glasses. Here are the wise glasses:

I do the same thing.

Mad at this failure of my manager I see only it, giant, emblematic, enraging. But how many times does she let ride my fooling around, my extreme autonomy? How many times does she get it right, trust me, properly read what I do, or give me the extra credit and apply it as I do, to the places that let me chat or read, or make coffee once again? She does it at least some, and probably a whole lot more. How many times has she walked past when it really is quiet at the front desk and just let it all go? I am hassled only very rarely, and if I am going to hate it as much as I do, it might behoove me to appreciate the many many times it doesn't happen. I am responsible and yet I remain quite wild. That fact in itself presents a broader picture of meaning.

Arrgh, these wisdom glasses really pinch at the nose! They're a bit of strain on the eyes too, so allow me to take them off for a second. 

I am no apologist, and there is always an important line to watch here with Managers. I don't even think I believe in Management.

Hmm, that's a bit of relief.

Nevertheless, a little perspective here will do me no harm.

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