ASSOCIATES (2012, March, v. 18, no. 3)


Nuggets of Wisdom

massey.gifTinker Massey

Having spent more than twenty years in support staff motivational speaking across the nation, I found a few interesting nuggets of wisdom that still need to be discussed today. Most of you know that I worked at an institution where teamwork and shared ideas were not valued. That was an old classical method of management. The two major drawbacks to that form of leadership are poor communication patterns and the lack of respect for staff values. Both of these work creatively to form patterns of distrust, inferiority, fear and hate. When they are allowed to simmer, they can become vicious, physically fearful, and disruptive to general workflows. We can become victims easily on different levels and to different degrees of influence. In one setting, I sought alternative ways to combat the poor working conditions. In another, I found myself overwhelmed by the combative forces and I asked to be moved to another department. In still another situation, I fought silently to maintain my sanity and integrity, but in the end, I had to withdraw from the situation and find other ways to utilize my talents. It has not been a bad thing, I have gained so much valuable experience.

No matter what management style you choose or inherit, if you enhance it with an ample amount of good communication and respect for others, you can succeed in your job. I like to say this is a truism no matter what level you work in, or whether you may be a supervisor or not, we all have a responsibility to respect others, no matter who they are. Mutual respect gives us a mechanism to work out difficulties, find common solutions for uncommon problems, and proceed to the future with new ideas and alternatives. If you understand these principles, then you are half way there to your success. If not, then realize what a top down, point by point, no feedback system does to a workforce. There will be a certain amount of outward obedience, a dribble of undercurrent defiance, and snags in the efficiency of your workflow that impede your total success. Happy campers make the best workers. They will be happy if they believe their ideas count and their work effort is acknowledged. That can be achieved when the staff “buy into” their tasks and common goals by realizing their efforts will be part of the success of the project or intended goal. I sit with my workers, express the project, the necessity of its success, the ramifications or move onto other aspects of our tasks, and then ask for ideas on how we can best achieve those results. As each idea is discussed, we look at the pros and cons, the efficiency of the flow and the saving of personnel time and supplies. We form a design from these ideas, work out smaller details, assign tasks to the best talented individuals on a mutual agreement or volunteer basis, and establish feedback or reporting, so that we can readjust our plans if necessary, wasting as little time as possible. Our team has been able to accomplish a great deal of success in shorter deadlines than other groups, and we still maintain our mutual respect during critical times. It is rewarding to watch a group work in such stimulating environments and have so much fun. We challenge ourselves and each other to perform at greater expectations, but we are also able to adjust the expectations if necessary without loss of personal ego or worth.

Communication is very important in any system where cooperative work is essential and group morale needs to be maintained. In the past, I have had to catalog World War II newsletters of airplane industry corporations/factories. Workflows were necessarily mundane to provide efficiency to an industry providing machinery and or weapons for the war effort. The workforce was suddenly devoid of the skilled/trained workers who enlisted in the war, and now had to train new unskilled workers to ensure efficient and higher quality productive units. The newsletters were an integral part in this plan. Departments were responsible for writing about their quality and productivity, of course, but also about the people who worked in that unit. In addition, there were general articles about the factory sports teams, picnics, births, previous workers now in the armed forces, and those in need of help. Of course, Red Cross articles, visiting dignitaries, and newly implemented ideas in production. There was very little not being voiced in the weekly papers, and everyone read them to keep up with the news. Similar to when we use group emails and full staff meetings to communicate our ideas, we keep knowledgeable about the entire workings of the library and gossip is not necessary to guess what might be happening. The avoidance of secretive communication is essential to smoother work relations. Open communication is great for productivity and allows our thoughts to be functioning on new ideas rather than criticizing current structure.

Think about this. What do you wonder about the functioning of your library? Do you not feel safe in your work environment? Are there aspects of your environment that make working difficult, such as lighting, heating, air conditioning, etc.? Are there other questions that need to be discussed? Find a way to suggest an open forum to your administration. Perhaps there are committees who can handle these problems. For example, we have a safety committee, who has worked with the university to diagram “safe rooms” in time of crisis or emergency; they have established personnel throughout the library who have been trained in safety and emergency procedures; and there are now egress charts and procedures for situations such as fire, tornado, hurricane and “shooters on campus.” This group does a lot more for us and we now have people who are first aid trained and some new equipment to resuscitate people when necessary. This equipment has already been used in helping a heart attack victim and stimulated the campus to train people in other places at the university. This is just one way new communication patterns can work for you. This could very well be something to think about for your library. Be the eyes and ears for new change!