4 Ways to Heal Your Library Team After a Micromanager

Donna Feddern —  May 13, 2016 — 1 Comment

Coworkers in a serious discussion with text 4 ways to heal your team after a micromanager
If your predecessor was a micromanager and you are more of a collaborative type of manager, you may have some clean-up to do to get your new team on track. Here are a few tips that will help you know where to look, and how to repair the damage.

1) Review all rules

Sometimes libraries can go a little overboard with their rules. How strict do you need to be with staff and patrons? Take a look at your policies and procedures and see if they need to be loosened up. Check out job descriptions, too. Do they reflect the needs of the library and is there some flexibility built in? All of these changes will require board (and union) approvals but it will be worth it to have everyone on the same page.

Also look for meeting minutes. These may give you an idea of how much control your predecessor had over things and how much staff were allowed to contribute to decisions. One person cannot possibly have all the answers. Were a variety of voices being heard?

2) Enjoy the honeymoon period

Staff will be so excited by hearing the word “Yes” for the first time that they may build up confidence and get carried away with requests. You will be such a breath of fresh air and will probably end up confused by why their requests seem like such a big deal. Some micromanagers are change-averse and use their power to say no to just about everything.

When the ideas and requests really start flowing, you will eventually have to draw a line and park some of the requests. Staff will have to get used to the new world of ideas and how they need to be managed properly (Why should we implement this? Do we have time right now? How should it be prioritized? How do we do it properly? How will we evaluate success? Do we need to create an experimental space to pilot new ideas?)

3) Wean your staff off dependency

Your priorities will be different than your predecessor’s and they should mirror your job description. For example, working on a presentation for the local Chamber of Commerce is probably going to be a higher priority than filling the golf pencil holder. Micromanagers seem to have an incredible amount of energy to work on everything but their own job duties. Delegation will be very important here and you need to tread carefully.

Find gentle ways of breaking it to your staff and support groups that things are going to be different. For example, you may need to review with your Friends of the Library board what you can and cannot legally do for them. Chances are your predecessor was doing more than just being a representative of the library at this group’s meetings. Be firm about your duties and priorities. Tell staff and support groups all the great things you’re doing so they understand you are being a productive member of the team and then delegate the rest.

4) Build staff’s self-esteem

Now is the time to let every staff member know what they are doing right. Library Lost & Found has some great articles about praising staff. They are used to being criticized or never doing anything quite right. Let them know when you like what they are doing! It’s time for some positive reinforcement.


Being the new boss is never easy. Taking over for someone whose management style is completely different than yours – especially when their style was toxic – means you have your work cut out for you. Your style may be welcome in some ways and confusing in others. I hope this article has given you a few places to start looking to find out which changes need to be made and which expectations need to be redefined as you begin leading your new team.

 

Donna Feddern

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Donna is the manager of two library branches for the Timberland Regional Library system in Washington State. Prior to that, she worked at the Escondido Public Library for 10 years, working in multiple positions from Automation Systems Librarian to Senior Librarian of Teen and Media Services, and finally Digital Services Manager. Her projects included a major website redesign and the LibraryYOU project. Donna has also worked on reference desks for the Free Library of Philadelphia, the King County Library System, and the Seattle Public Library and as a trainer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation traveling to libraries in Oklahoma and New Mexico to provide computer training to library staff. Donna’s professional interests include management, staff development, library security, design thinking, and online marketing.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Trust in the Library « Library Lost & Found - January 12, 2017

    […] mistake of underestimating the problem at the public library. I thought that if I were proactive in repairing the damage previously done to the manager position, while forging positive relationships with my new staff, […]

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