Saturday, January 24, 2009

i'm sorry I can't be perfect...or not

I've had to shift manage quite a few times lately, and twice in the last week.  I honestly don't mind, but it's also not something I want to do everyday.  Definitely not everyday.  It's really easy, until something goes wrong and then everything falls to you.  I'm just not interested in having that kind of responsibility on a regular basis, and besides, you can't do anything and it's really quite boring.  

Anyway, this week I had to do it when the person who was managing went home sick, unfortunately that was the second person gone, and we couldn't find anyone to come in, so we were REALLY short staffed.  I called our manager on call... twice and got no response.  When they finally called back it was "what do you want me to do?" what did I want?  I wanted them to tell me what I was supposed to be doing with that few staff.  But no, they just authorized some overtime and went to bed.  We did awesome.  The people working were great, and it was really quiet.  I was, to be honest, rather pleased with myself for keeping the situation under control and not getting worked up about stuff.  

Then after shift change, the day staff let me have it.  Man, according to them I was pretty much the worst person ever.  I guess it's against the union policy to have that few people in the building or something, and it's a huge deal (even though I know we've done it on nights before when the enforcers been in charge).  It all has to do with liability and while I totally get it, in a practical sense, what was I supposed to do.  According to the person reaming me out, I needed to call the day staff at 2AM and get one of them to come in at 3:30AM, four hours before their scheduled shift... I'm sure this would have gone over REALLY well had I done this (and let me tell you, if it ever happens again I know EXACTLY who I'll be calling).  

There were many other things that I was apparently wrong about, athough this was the big one, and to be brutally honest I got in the car and sobbed my way home.  I tried so hard to do everything right, and somehow it just wasn't good enough.  But as I pondered things I realized a few things.  For starters, it's important to remember where this all was coming from.  This is a person who tells me off a lot (like a daytime enforcer sort of) and talks down to many people, not just me.  Secondly, I did do many things right, nothing went wrong, and there were no emergencies, fights or issues.  While this may not be the case every time something like this were to happen, it was this time, and that's the important thing.  

The biggest thing I have to remember is that I am definitely the least experienced shift manager we have, by a lot.  All the other shifts have tons of waaaaaaaaaay more experienced people, but since most people don't want to work nights as soon as they have some seniority they swtich to a "better" shift.  Thus, the night shift has tends to have the newest people (except of course for the enforcer), even our alternate coordinator has less experience then like the 4rth alternate for days (wait, it's actually the 6th alternate...I just counted).  SO it's natural that I wouldn't know all the policies or what to do in all contingencies.  I've recieved no extra training to do this.  No one has ever sat down and said "this is what you do to be a shift manager" or "this is what to do when..."  As far as I can tell, there isn't even a book about it.  I mean, there's our general policies, half of which are still under review, but there's no specific section to go to.  I don't even have a job description for it because I'm not "the" coordinator.  

I coordinated the next day and even though I had almost full staff the day staff still found many things that I did "wrong".  This time though, I looked at things more critically and realized that in many cases it wasn't about "me" at all, it's more of a general frustration with the organization, the lack of communication and the lack of funding.  

This is one thing I honestly never dreamed I'd be doing... 


Anonymous said...

That's shitty - if they have policies they want you to follow, they should be clearly laid out in a staff or office handbook. It's not productive to have a go at someone AFTER the event if they haven't bothered to outline what you should do in a particular situation. It's unkind too. It shows how poorly managed the place is. I had something like that happen to me once (I had to open up a public building on my own as no-one else had turned up to work and it was my second week in my new job). I hadn't a clue what to do and the way the whole situation was managed, set the tone for that place. Other places I've worked at have been great - really clear, good communication. You are much better off trying to find the latter to work in if you can. Remember your own self worth - in poorly managed places it's the first thing that tends to go especially when colleagues have a go at one (and that is not professional either).
The other thing to bear in mind is, maybe, at some point, you may find yourself in a difficult situation at work (with clients) and be hauled over the coals because the procedures aren't clear. I've been reading your blog for a while. I know others have mentioned it, but have you thought seriously about looking around for another organisation to work for? You do deserve better!

socialworkemergency said...

Ugh. Sounds like you did the best you could. But I agree with the comment from Anon: there are a lot of systemic issues there that will probably find you in similar straits down the road.

If the on call manager doesn't respond to pages and then asks what you want them to do....well, that's quite the tone that person is setting for the rest of the team.

Take care of yourself.

Reas Kroicowl said...

Ugh. At least you were able to have some perspective on the matter.

Still Dreaming said...

Yeah, they should have good policies, and hopefully someday they will, we could do SO much good work if we were just a little better organized and run.

Thank you guys for all your support, it's nice to know that I'm not crazy in the way I think!