The team in which I work has been without a manager for something in the region of eight months. This was not supposed to happen. But it did. And in some ways, as the previous manager detached from us, we did not have a manager for about a year.
As my regular readers will be aware, I have been ill to varying degrees since July. Not having a direct manager is less than ideal when you need lot of care and support with the transition back to work. Of course other managers had to help out. I told manager A I needed to leave work on the day I officially threw my hands up and said I’m going to be off work now please and I suspect I won’t be back for a while. Manager B kept track of me and my sick notes while I was off and officiated over my return to work meetings and Manager C was given my bi-monthly regular “touch base” meetings. Continuity of care? Nope. Each of them did their best but I needed one person who I could go to. When I tried full time and didn’t cope I didn’t know who to talk to.
Aside from the illness aspect, there was no one who could make decisions for our department because there was no one with the relevant hierarchical position as well as the technical/professional knowledge, so we stagnated massively. We were already a bit behind the rest of the community in picking up the new data standards, but now we’re an extra year behind. The departments alongside us have been moving on and we haven’t. We haven’t even always heard what was going on because without a manager to tell us the news we missed out on things. There is a lot of change going on around us but we couldn’t change anything in our team.
Of course in some ways we acted up to fill the gap. Several of us were ushered onto committees in place of our missing manager. We got pretty adept at managing small day to day issues between us and it improved our cohesion as a team … mostly.
When the job was finally advertised I was not well enough to apply. But of course it caused tensions in the team because people were eyeing each other wondering if they’d be competing for the post and any opportunities to shine as potential management candidates were fiercely fought over.
Eventually the post was filled by an external candidate and we waited as the new manager worked her notice on her old job. Personally I was frustrated that the first thing this manager would see of me was not me at my best, but a weak feeble version who could only manage a few hours at work each day. I wasn’t looking forwards to it.
But now we have a manager. And I’m shocked at how much of a relief it is – how much I needed there to be a manager.
Suddenly I remember phrases I’ve heard or read from natural horsemanship trainers and from the Dog Whisperer.
Your horse wants you to be the leader.
If there’s no pack leader the dog will have to be the boss because you’re not doing that job for him.
Without an alpha mare our office herd have been … managing. Although I wasn’t there all the time this year I feel a lot of the weight of needing to be a pack leader fell on me when I was there. I know it fell on the others in different ways too. Now we have an alpha mare. Now our pack has a leader. And I find it wonderful.
I have absolutely no doubt that the novelty of having a manager again will wear off, but I feel a great weight off me now that we have a manager again. Earlier this week I had a problem requiring a solution from outside the department. Could I have sent off a barrage of emails and dealt with it alone? No doubt. But how much better it was to take her the problem and have her offer to deal with it and to come up with a policy in case it happens again.
And while it’s extremely early days in our working relationship and the new broom sweeps cleanest, I feel hopeful that in this time of change she will be a strong leader, fighting for the things that our team does and the things we would like to do. I feel a little like Balin from the Hobbit, speaking of Thorin Oakenshield:
“There is one I could follow. There is one I could call Manager.”