Why Do I Have To Be A Manager?

I was nominated for an award through my organization for excellence in librarianship; I didn’t win, and the person who did is a motivated and inspirational woman very excited about her work. Being good at what I do, however, isn’t enough for my administrators. They keep pushing me to become management, something I don’t want to do.

The raise for stepping up is only $200 extra a month. Yeah. Big bucks, there. It’s not enough to tempt me into a management position–even if I wanted one, which I don’t. There’s a couple of reasons for this.

Reason 1: I have a Library and Information Science degree. I don’t mind working as a librarian (though the aspects of my system have made that a slog through hell most of the time). I value helping people find information and teach information literacy. I value providing materials, computers, wifi, to individuals who may not have access to them on their own. It’s really too bad that what librarian’s are supposed to do is not what I end up actually doing in my job (programming is not librarianship).

Reason 2: I spoke recently to a manager who said it was the worst mistake she had ever made. She is not the only person I’ve spoken to with the same sentiment. Our system is unforgiving when it comes to petty grievances, mistakes, you name it. Managers get the brunt of the payback for complaints and whatnot and are expected to transfer the same to their workers. It makes for very hostile work environments where trust is an expensive luxury that usually ends up biting the hand that felt it. Trust tends to lead to disciplinary action.

Reason 3: Harassment and abuse. When upper management decides to go for the throat, they expect the on-site manager to be their first line of punishment, whether that manager agrees with their assessment or not. It’s hard to punish someone you work with when they haven’t done anything wrong, but an administrator has decided they don’t like said person so they are intent on hounding them out of the system. If you refuse to carry out the punishment, you get in trouble for not doing your job. You carry out the punishment, you lose all respect of those under you because they see you as upholding the unfair biases of administrators.

Reason 4: A personal tale that illustrates how my system works. A racism complaint was lodged against a co-worker by a customer, and administrators saw this as an opportunity to take down said co-worker (active in union? Down you go!). There was an HR investigation, and the investigator decided to speak to every employee at our library, whether they were involved in said incident or not. I sat down for this interview, and the first thing that popped out of her mouth was, “You’re in big trouble.”


Apparently the complaint said someone with strawberry-blonde hair did something offensive. I don’t have strawberry-blonde hair–it’s red. But close enough, I guess. So the interviewer went on and on about me getting punished for this offense that she refused to specify before she even asked me a question. When she did get around to asking me what I knew of the events that led to the complaint, I told her that I was scheduled off on the days in question. I was not present, so there was no way I could answer the question. She stared at me, realizing that her “big catch” had just slipped through her fingers. She had no idea what to do, and half-heartedly asked me about co-worker’s character before telling me I could go. Apparently she did not find out until interviewing others who actually worked that day that said customer had threatened to kill our co-worker, and a security report had been filled out because of it, putting the customer’s complaint in a very different light. How nice.

That is how my system works. No effort is made to find out what truly happened in any matter. Assumptions are made and those are acted upon, whether true or not. No effort is made to actually seek the truth. Punishment is dished out based on those assumptions, not what actually happened. Many times punishment is simply petty revenge, but it all coalesces into a work environment that is hostile and unforgiving–and local managers are required to carry out most of the punishments even if those punishments are chosen and instituted by other administrators.

Funny, I keep telling myself that this work environment is a product of a head librarian who saw punishment as the obvious way to keep workers in line. I keep telling myself that other library systems are different, that the soul-crushing micro-management with harassment and punishment as incentives to keep your head down and mouth shut is unique. I just can’t actually convince myself of that.

So why would I want to be a manager in this system? I don’t. Of course, I was told that my not wanting to be a manager is not a good enough reason to not get promoted. I have to come up with a better argument. And yes, my system does tend to move librarians around, against their will, to other libraries, filling positions that administrators have decided need to be filled by that particular person. Something to look forward to.