Being back in the corporate world (for three days a week in order to earn my bread and butter) has brought me face to face with a word or term or concept that I have always found odd.
There seems a higher ration of “managers” than there was when I worked within the health service. In my new workplace, a manager might have just one or two people to “manage”, whereas before there were much larger teams with one manager.
In the health service, we were mostly independent. We arrived at work and knew what we had to do to care for our patients. Our managers were the people who had to deal with all the stress – things like targets, budgets, audits and compliance. We all knew when we had to involve our manager with a decision or something to facilitate our work activities. The only time there was any kind of invasive interference from managers was distasteful activities such as “appraisals”, when a manger would generally demoralise and discourage individuals on their team and demand perfection in the future, not allowing for the stresses and the unpredictable nature of working in the health service.
In the corporate world, I am even more afraid of this concept of managers and management. For my first ten years of employment I was in the corporate world, and I managed to fight all efforts for senior staff to promote me, refusing all offers to tempt me to become a “manager”. I had zero interest in their view of what a manager should do.
As an unpaid volunteer, “manager” is not a term we use. We use all sorts of other terms – trainer, supervisor, overseer, and assistant. They are much friendlier. They are also more dignifying to all those who freely give up their time without any financial reward in order to work, give, build, contribute to something special.
In my corporate role, a colleague asked me a little about the work I do for charities, and I made the mistake of starting my sentence, “I help to manage a database of volunteers…” My colleague misheard me, and thought had said I manage people. I quickly shook my head and tried to explain. But I soon realized there was no point explaining. Just as the corporate mentality makes no sense to me, neither would the mentality amongst volunteers make sense to my colleague.
Over the years I have carried out all sorts of tasks that my colleague may associate with the concept of “management”. I have been responsible for all sorts of administration and financial administration tasks. I have been responsible for patient care plans. I have been responsible for rotas and work assignments. I have been responsible to create and implement training for scores of volunteers. I have been a one-to-one trainer. I have provided training to live audiences of hundreds of volunteers and in some cases audiences thousands. I have been filmed to be part of training videos. I have had to deal with personal conflicts when misunderstandings arose between volunteers and we brought them together to work things out.
But in all these tasks, there was never an idea of “management”. It makes sense in a huge project, to break down aspects of the project and assign them to smaller teams, and for there to be one person and perhaps an assistant who cares for ensuring that everyone else on the team has an idea of the objective, how to carry that out safely, to guarantee they have the equipment and knowledge they need and to offer encouragement and solutions to challenges. But never….never, never ever ever…would that person be there to lord it over others, or to bask in any glory of an illusion of superiority.
When I worked in the corporate world, it was often individuals who were less balanced, less reasonable, willing to humiliate others, sacrifice time with their family, and generally had a concerning discontent and desire for more money, more praise, more status, more respect, who ended up as managers, sometimes exulting in a false pretention they were somehow “superior”, whereas often there were others on their team who seemed far more successful in terms of life – decency, kindness, reason, ethics…who were in no way “inferior”.
So when a manager gets personal…and starts to “coach” their team members on how they can please the powers that be within the corporate world, and offering suggestions that are unwise – like working at a pace they are more likely to cut corners and make mistakes – in order to make the team look good. Or…one suggestion made to me recently when I had asked somebody for some information I needed to carry out my task (and of course the other person had a lot of other work to do so had to make time to retrieve the information I needed) was to demand they responded to my enquiry within a definite time scale. Demanding people answer my questions within an hour – that is sure to endear me to my new colleagues!
I take personal responsibility for managing my own time and finances. I take responsibility for my energy levels and maintaining good working relationships with others. I take personal responsibility for my work methods and conscientiousness, and I am mindful that the way we work can provide an example for others. But the corporate concept of “management” and “managing people”, which sometimes seems to mean discouraging them, demoralising them, reminding them of targets, pressuring them, offering them the incentive of incremental financial rewards, asking them not to make excuses over unpredictable challenges that come up at work, suggesting ways they could improve in order to fit the corporate ideal…it is so distasteful to me.
It is distasteful and as I look ahead I dread the occasions when somebody else tries to “manage” me. I will continue to do what I have been doing – make every effort to be reliable, punctual, smartly dressed, polite and courteous in verbal and written communications, follow procedures and policies in connection with my work, seek ways to increase time efficiency and productivity. I will do all this….but I have no ambition, except to turn up, give my utmost, and escape so I can go and enjoy my real career of working with incredible volunteers who share their experience and skills freely with a joyful heart, because they care so much about people and planet.
The corporate world may think I am crazy….but of course, I think they are completely crazy!!! I wonder which of us is more joyful, more at peace, and which of us sleeps more soundly at night?