Saturday, July 31, 2004

Open-letter to my front-line staff

(Otherwise known as “Rantings of a Branch Manager” - I seem to be prone to ranting these days. It's getting addictive. As with my previous open-letter, the tone of this letter may be exaggerated, but not by much. )

Dear colleagues,

This letter took me 5 hours to think, draft and finally send.

Yesterday I was talking to a few managers and they say how their staff was concerned about being transferred to other branches, due to the pending re-organisation. So I thought to email you some highlights of the new organisation structure (as much information as I knew anyway).

But I kept thinking about it the whole of it last night and came to the conclusion that the re-organisation was not the real staff concerns. I woke at 6am on my off-day, thought through some points the managers mentioned, and so instead of telling you about the new divisional structure, let me address these 5 points:

1) Longer distance to new work location
2) Getting new colleagues who are “not as good as those at my previous branch”
3) Loss of status at my new branch
4) Not being able to fit in at new branch
5) Personal issues

#1 - Longer distance to new work location
Distance to work is a fact. But this is Singapore - a small red dot. Personally, I hate to wake early. But got no choice, so to get more sleep, I just have to pay more and take taxi. In life, we all have to make a choice, right?

So you say, "You are a manager and you earn more. For a lowly front-line staff like me, every cent counts." My response would be, "We're paid for our responsibilities and accountabilities. And if you already think you are 'lowly', then you have to question your own sense of self-worth. As for increase in living expenses, we all have to manage our finances as best we can."

Let me be very blunt – If you have been in the same branch for donkey-years and have not been moved, either you have been so critical to the branch that you cannot be replaced, or that you nobody in the organisation wants you.

Distance to work has always been the first issue that staff mention when asked to transfer. But I think it’s not the real reason why you are worried.


#2 - Getting new colleagues who are “not as good as those at my previous branch”
We cannot choose who we want to work with. We are not paid to be good friends. The first consideration is to ask if we do our job competently. Maybe the other branch staff would feel that we are not as good as them. So we must prove ourselves first.

If you feel your new branch has certain practices that are not so good, it’s your job to alert the colleagues and manager to suggest change. How you go about convincing your new colleagues, you have to use your people skills. If your people skills are terrible, then the fault is with you.

I think there are 3 things we can TRY to change - our environment, the people around us, and ourselves. If it turns out that ALL the staff in your new branch (from top to bottom of the org structure) are "lousy", then you’d better ask for transfer or resign. It could just be a bad fit between yourself and the rest; it may not be that you are a bad person (although it can be, too).


#3 - Loss of status at my new branch
Some of us may feel that we’d be losing all that we've built up at our current branch - our goodwill, trust and authority. If we move to new branch, then we have to start from scratch. We have no “power”.

As mentioned in #2, so long we prove yourself, know how to mix around and talk to new colleagues, we should be readily accepted. Don't worry - if you're good, you'll find some way to thrive. There aren't that many staff in each branch these days. The organisation is flat. It is very easy to spot talented people. Also easy to spot not-so-good staff.


#4 - Not being able to fit in at new branch – don’t gel with new colleagues
Please see earlier points in #2 & #3. Also, there are many books on how to build up our people skills. Discussion with your manager for training courses.


#5 - Personal Issues
We are all unique individuals and have our unique set of problems. All I can say about this is that we each have to find our own solutions.

In life, for every Plus, there is a Minus. We cannot have our cake and eat it. If you know of a work location that is near my home, where every single staff is excellent and highly motivated, where the customers are very polite, please let me know where is this perfect place. I'd like to transfer there.

If we have some personal problems, talking to fellow colleagues may help. Sometimes, if we open-up and genuinely share with them, we'd be surprised at the responses. Of course, if all we do is complain, then we're basically wasting everybody’s time.

So dear colleagues, if you’ve read this far, then I thank you. The above points may or may not be relevant to you.

Don't know if I've made you angrier or happier. Hope I was of some help. I just thought you should know what I'm thinking about.

Yours Sincerely,
The Rambling Librarian/ Manager

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From the
2nd Library Leadership Institute course

Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plans = Desired Results

[x] + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plans = Confusion/ Conflict
Vision + [x] + Incentives + Resources + Action Plans = Performance Anxiety
Vision + Skills + [x] + Resources + Action Plans = Backsliding
Vision + Skills + Incentives + [x] + Action Plans = Frustration/ Anger
Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + [x] = False Starts/ No results

People resist change because of what they think they stand to lose.
E.g. control, choice, competencies, self-worth.
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3 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:45 pm

    You are right about the loss of status - loss of authority, loss of influence, loss of power (some people are influential but not powerful, some
    are powerful but not influential, and 1 always marveled at those influential n powerful at the same time).

    The next time u interview someone, ask them if idstance is going to be a problem and have it documented when they replied they would not mind traveling more than 40 km in their job if required.

    Yes, Singapore is so small, 45 km? from E to W. Yet there are people I worked with (low lives. mgt or corporate slaves type) who didnt mind taking a ferry taking a minivan, taking a bus and walking 2000 steps to their office. You are right again - we are paid for doing the job and employer is not obliged to maintain one's lifestyle of choice.

    It is true people resist change. Hmm.. I used to ask myself - People are supposed to manage change? Well, why do we need to MANAGE change? The new generation is going to get bored if you dont introudce some chaos into their lives say every 5 seconds? Change is going to be so much part of their life (like they used to say - they cannot imagine being born into a world without
    computers) that they dont need to waste 3000 hours in their life time to attend change mgt course, stress mgt course etc.

    A career as a librarian - how does one describe it? You just don't.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous11:46 pm

    I can only say that we must never forget why we became librarians...but then again, not everyone became one for the same, or right, reason.

    What if someone tells you they only join this profession because they were looking for a job? How to inspire them to the higher ideals of librarianship, which to me, in a nutshell, is STILL abt connecting people to information, though this implicitly covers organisation of resources, knowledge of resources, service design from customers' point of view, costs management, marketing and a strong dose of COMMUNICATION skills.

    - GH

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Anonymous alias GH

    The first comment was posted by me, somehow, i was being anonymousised to be protected (i guessed).

    Anyway, I want to confess. I "became" a librarian cos I was looking for a nondescript and boring job. On the 18 paged form from PSC (Public Service Commission), there were 5 options to increase your chances - you could pick 5 from a list of probably 20 appointment titles in the civil service. I wrote:
    1. Library Officer (Trainee)
    2. - blank-
    3. - blank-
    4. - blank-
    5. - blank-

    Of cos, the interviewers took that and mistaken my one and only CHOICE on no uncertain terms, as my deep conviction and tenacity - that all I wanted to be when I grew up was a LIBRARIAN.

    I fooled them for 10 years. If there was any appraisal like what they are having now at NLB, I would have been given the boot after the probation.

    My parents went cold war with me for 3 months. They thought what bad karma they have been afflicted with to have this stoopid 2nd upper honors daughter, who has given up her S$1650 a month salary (1988) at another Stat Board that employed only hons grads in one of its division, and go join this "zoo of book lovers" for a meagre pay of S$750 a month.

    You wrote "What if someone tells you they only join this profession because they were looking for a job? How to inspire them to the higher ideals of librarianship, which to me, in a nutshell, is STILL abt connecting people to information, though this implicitly covers organisation of resources, knowledge of resources, service design from customers' point of view, costs management, marketing and a strong dose of COMMUNICATION skills."

    Maybe now I finally understood why I could not be inspired to the higher purposes and ideas of librarianship. Many a day at the desk (children and reference) - the only thing I wanted to connect people to, was my fists.

    ReplyDelete

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