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comments from a manager

And What, May I Ask, Do You Do All Day?!?

Robert Milner

Having the intellect to program my cell phone, I felt fairly confident that when I picked up on the ring the person on the other end of the phone was whom my trusty phone identified ... my wife. However, when I greeted her with a "Hello, dear," I was startled by a strange voice.
Actually, the voice on the other end of the line was a friend of my wife's. Sensing something wrong, I asked to speak to my wife. Her friend calmly explained that I could not speak with her at the moment because they were at the hospital, where my wife was being treated for a broken arm. Obviously my initial reaction was that of concern for my wife -- although I must admit I was not all that surprised considering that she did this while playing women's indoor soccer with women half her age. (For those of you who are regular readers of this column, you might remember a recent article where I referred to my rotor cuff surgery. This, in addition to my wife's broken bone and the prospect of athletic injuries to two very active 5- and 7-year-olds, may be a dream for surrounding area hospitals!)
Actually, bringing up my children reminds me of something my wife shared with me. For all of you with kids, you'll appreciate and probably identify with this. As my wife lay on the soccer field, in horrific pain, my 5-year-old gently asked her if she was still going to give him a dollar to buy a soda. Now, who says kids' priorities are not in order!
OK, by now you are no doubt wondering where I am going with all of this. We will, I promise, get there; however, you still need a little more insight into the "scheme of things."
After the accident, life at home did a 180, at least temporarily. The morning after the accident, I heard the alarm go off ... a couple of times. I realized that someone had to get the boys up and off to school. That "someone" was me. This routine was an all-new venture, or shall I say adventure.
Boys up, boys dressed, hair brushed, breakfast, teeth brushed, lunches made, out the door, walk to the bus stop, head home. With that whirlwind out of the way I thought of my first sip of coffee (on a "normal" day I had my first cup hours ago). Upon entering the house, I was informed that there was dirty laundry that needed attending before I got comfortable. Laundry in washer, laundry out of washer, laundry in dryer, laundry folded, separated and put away. Straighten up the house, get the mail, let the dog in and out, etc., etc. All throughout the day, things just never seem to settle down. Before I knew it, the boys were getting off the bus. It seem like I just put them on the bus. Now it was homework time. Is it just my kids or do kids nowadays just have way too much homework? Oops, a knock at the door. I opened the door to find my wife's friend with her arms loaded down with a delicious dinner for day's end. At this point in time I didn't know whether to hug her and thank her or just think to myself, "Oh no, look at all of these dishes I'm going to have to wash and dry!"
I can definitely say this unfortunate experience has helped me begin a new and better relationship with the things I thought my wife did all day. Needless to say I never did get that nap I thought she took every day.
Now you will find out where I am going with my tale of woe or, rather, the role I am unaccustomed to playing!
Perhaps some thought should be given to switching places with our employees. There's an interesting book entitled "Walk Awhile in My Shoes" that is comprised of gut-level, real-world messages from managers to employees. The beginning of the book mentions something about employees being human, just like us managers. They have joys, fears, frustrations and hopes. They feel, they laugh and they cry, just like us.
I am familiar with one university that has an auditing department (auditing daily garage tickets) that consistently finds fault and mistakes made by the cashiers after the ticket has been rung up. In some cases, this results in the cashier being charged the difference for their mistake(s). A suggestion was made for the auditors to go out in the field and work as a cashier. Two lasted a bit more than an hour and neither of those made it past four hours. Hmmmm, sounds a bit like "Walk Awhile in My Shoes."
Therefore, it is fair to surmise that we, as leaders, should assume half the responsibility for the working relationship between our employees and us. If you work well with them, take half the credit. If you don't, accept half the responsibility to make it better. Keep in mind even though we are the boss, this relationship is a two-way street.
Let's look at things in a slightly different light. Our schedules are so horrendous that we often forget to recognize our employees (for it is far and in-between that we get recognition ourselves). However, I'll bet if we all just put forth more of an effort to let our employees know how much we appreciate them, they will do their best to reciprocate. They will put forth that little extra effort to achieve and accomplish. After all, I've never heard of an employee complaining about receiving too much recognition ... have you?

Robert Milner is Associate Director of Parking at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He has been in the private sector as a senior manager with Penn Parking and Central Parking. He can be reached at rmilner@parking.umaryland.edu

Article Abstract from May, 2003




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