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And the cycle begins anew...

My last job was event programming for a multi-branch system. The work would've been fun, but lord, sometimes the environment just makes it a lost cause. I have since quit that job with extreme prejudice, and now everyone I know who's worked there freely shares their horror stories. Sadly, professionalism often precludes us from being totally frank, and by extension it precludes the people who are the real problem from having a frickin' clue about how pervasively poisonous they are.

My 2 predecessors each made it less than a year there, and I didn't learn this until I started the job. By four months in, I could see why - the managers were collectively a nightmare. Whenever they were gathered, they would snipe about whichever one wasn't present at the moment. They all had awful things to say about the director, when she wasn't there of course, and they would even casually badmouth my predecessors, to me, as if I'd enjoy the gossip. I often learned what was expected of me second- or third-hand, and after the fact ("Hey, doombird, Mary told me that Bob mentioned last week that you weren't filling out the scheduling forms correctly. Did Bob or Mary mention it to you? No?"), which was often too late to be useful. I had thought this meant they just were very casual about things, but it turned out that at least some of them were legit stewing in silent disappointment and judging me for failures they had not informed me of.

I learned from several staff that the director and ass't director had unpredictable tempers, and had made more than one employee cry, right out on the floor, in front of patrons. They gave unclear expectations and then when they were disappointed they blew up and maligned the person's work, or worse, maligned them personally. Apparently, my predecessors had both had this happen to them more than once, and had left within about 7 months of starting. Somehow they couldn't do anything right, yet they went on to be amazing librarians and do amazing things elsewhere. Sure enough, right around 6 months in, I missed a single e-mail from the assistant director with a work request - the guy didn't bring it up again at all for a whole month, though we spoke frequently. (My bad really - but the dir and ass't dir, failed to respond to emails all the time. I had no problem reminding them if I thought they'd missed it - you know, like a normal person would do?) The day before the request would have been due he called me and made a similar request, only as if it were a whole new idea with a 1 day turnaround. When I told him I would see if I could get it done but would appreciate more notice in the future, he blew up at me over the phone and told me he'd always thought my work was sub-par and he was trying to make things easy for me but didn't know how I'd ever managed to become a librarian. Then he hung up on me. This is the jackwad who hired me in the first place. (I didn't cry. I DON'T CRY, I JUST PLOT REVENGE.)

When I left, I was as honest as I dared with why I was leaving. I told the director about the incident, and she said well, the managers were under a lot of stress and I was being very hasty by running away after just one bad experience. (I stayed silent about the long list I'd heard from others.) I told her how the only feedback I ever got was negative and secondhand at best, and she said she was surprised because the managers always told her how wonderful my work was! (All I could say was I was as surprised as she was.)

Just after I left, a former cohort of mine asked me about a different position opening up in the branch where I was located, and if I'd recommend it. I was very, very honest with her, but admitted she might be OK since she would only have the one manager, not a gaggle of bosses like I did. She weighed her options and decided that the job would be a move up for her.

Yesterday, cohort contacted me to say I was lucky to be out. The director herself, who's known for coming out of her admin office and looming over the staff though she's not their direct supervisor, had yelled at her - yelled, big-girl voice and all - in front of a library full of patrons and staff for being 2 minutes late to her shift. To the point where this talented, cheerful, enthusiastic and normally very dependable woman was in tears - then told her she'd better suck it up and do her job and left her in tears at the desk.

I wish I could say I had hopes that management had noticed a pattern by now, and are doing some soul-searching to fix it. But now I'm wondering if they're even at the stage of beginning to notice that their staff are all either barely hanging on with their heads down, or running from them screaming - let alone realizing that THE PROBLEM IS THEM.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
toliver
Aug. 22nd, 2014 09:09 pm (UTC)
Or they don't care. At my last library, all of the other counties in the regional system left and formed their own system excluding the county and everyone who could retire or get a job elsewhere left the offending county, all in under two years. You think admin or the board thinks there is a problem with what they are doing?

Nope.
doombird
Aug. 25th, 2014 01:08 pm (UTC)
Wowwwww. If there weren't good reasons for trying to keep things vague and anonymous here, I would LOVE to hear the whole story behind that. An actual shunning!
toliver
Aug. 25th, 2014 03:01 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking of writing the story up as fiction but I think people would say it was too unbelievable! Yes, a real library shunning... I hadn't thought of it like that, but that aptly describes it. So very sad and frustrating to see it happen.
theidolhands
Aug. 22nd, 2014 10:00 pm (UTC)
Sadly, professionalism often precludes us from being totally frank, and by extension it precludes the people who are the real problem from having a frickin' clue about how pervasively poisonous they are. -- this so hard that it should be a tattoo, anytime people can get embedded this seems to be a huge issue.

I had thought this meant they just were very casual about things, but it turned out that at least some of them were legit stewing in silent disappointment and judging me for failures they had not informed me of. -- I hate this type of pointless passive-aggressive behavior. Oh wait, the point is to falsely make them feel better about themselves and likely distract from mistakes they have made. NEVERMIND an actual functioning workplace!

Edited at 2014-08-22 10:02 pm (UTC)
kryptonwizard
Aug. 23rd, 2014 02:10 am (UTC)
Ugh, what a horrible situation =( Even when I worked at Walmart it sounds like we were treated better than that (the managers waited to yell at us in the backroom). I wouldn't blame you or any of the others who left for doing so. That sort of unpredictably stressful environment is a hindrance to effective working.

Hopefully, someone higher up notices the insane turnover rate and cleans up the management. Ultimately, the patrons suffer as well...


Edited at 2014-08-23 02:11 am (UTC)
doombird
Aug. 25th, 2014 01:02 pm (UTC)
Re:
That's the thing about it! There's being strict with your employees, and then there's completely counterproductive and needless degradation of your employees. You'd think that even if they didn't give a crap about the mental wellbeing of the staff, they'd then give a crap about the impression the patrons got, even if it was false and sugar-coated. But apparently they don't give a crap about either... or they're so stressed out that they're making terrible decisions, which is a downward spiral of their own bad decisions in the first place. GAH.

Tragically, there is no one higher up than the director, and she and the assistant director are the main perpetrators. (the assistant director is also the manager of another branch, so between them they spread passive-aggression and plain-old-aggression over a wide swath.) I guess technically the library board are "above" them, but there's no good way to clue them in.

When Christmas rolls around I'll have to send the director a card that says "Merry Christmas! You are literally worse than Wal-Mart."
silveradept
Aug. 23rd, 2014 04:20 pm (UTC)
Or they're doing exactly what they want - to create an atmosphere of fear so they can control and prevent anyone from doing anything at all they don't explicitly approve of.
doombird
Aug. 25th, 2014 01:07 pm (UTC)
Man, it's always bad when the only possible explanations for someone's behavior are deliberate malice or complete abdication of self-awareness, and you're actively hoping it's "just" complete abdication of self-awareness.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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library_mofo
The Society for Librarians* Who Say "Motherfucker"
For all of those times when the gatekeepers of the world's knowledge are called upon, in their professional capacity, to use the word "motherfucker." Or at least to seriously consider it.

*Open to librarians; library associates, specialists, technicians, and paraprofessionals of all kinds; library school students; library aides and volunteers; and all of those who love libraries, or even just love a particular librarian. Welcome.

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