Nice Boss, Sloppy Shelves

When it comes to bosses, being “nice” has little to do with being good. Laura Smith reminisced in Slate about trying – and failing – to be a nice boss:

I allowed my coffee shop to become characterized by permissiveness. Some took advantage of this permissiveness by making up excuses for being late, or by trying to do as little work as possible. Those who didn’t take advantage became resentful of the other employees, and of me. It brought out the worst in everyone.

That sounds like a familiar story. Libraries have an ingrained culture of being both “nice” and permissive. In my first supervisory position, I struggled at first with clarifying rules for shelving to pages. I sympathize with Smith’s struggle telling another adult person how to slice a scone; specifying where to put a bookend seems like micro-management.

Oil painting of disordered bookshelves

Messy shelves: a reality since 1725. Painting by Guiseppe Crespi.

I  ended up with pages who didn’t understand exactly how to place books on the shelf, and shelves that were poorly maintained. I had to stop being nice. When I finally did articulate to a page exactly shelve a book, I was careful to express it calmly and encouragingly. It was still pleasant, but the directions were clear and firm.

Are you clear about articulating rules? Is the working atmosphere at your library permissive? What do you think about “nice” bosses in the library?

2 thoughts on “Nice Boss, Sloppy Shelves

  1. Heather says:

    On time arrival is the big issue at many places I’ve worked. It is so easy to slide from being “understanding” to be an accomplice.

    • Megan Hartline says:

      Agreed – this is a tough one to know exactly how to address! Have you found any good strategies for talking about it?

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