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On Motivation and Management

tired hippo laying in the sun
Photo by Tim De Pauw on Unsplash

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything on this site. To say it’s been a rough few years is so much of an understatement that it hints at the absurd. But I keep going, as we all do, in our own ways, despite all this.

I feel constantly at odds with myself as a new department head and manager. My job is to support and motivate others but I often struggle with motivation myself. I’ve always enjoyed my work. I love solving problems and helping others and learning new things. I derive satisfaction from good work and have always wanted to make a positive contribution to my workplace and professional community. I know I am not my work and my family is most important and this is just a job. I don’t think the problems we face in academic libraries are unique to academia or libraries and in many ways we have it a lot easier than people who do so many other kinds of work. I need to work to pay for life and hospital bills and speech therapy and a special school. But I also work so I can have fancy coffee and cute shoes and new books and silly earrings.

And yet it is feeling like such a drain these days.

I don’t mean to get all woe is the life of a manager with our bigger paychecks and greater positional authority, but like, maybe a little? I think there is something to be said about adjusting to a new leadership role. It’s awkward and exhausting. I make mistakes all the time. I will admit to wanting to nope-out of decision making, but that’s not really an option. So I keep on keepin’ on, apologizing when I don’t know the answer, struggling to understand new things because by the time 3pm rolls around my brain is muuuuush, and doing my best to support my truly wonderful team.

I’ve always admired supervisors and leaders who are so in control of their feelings and words, who always seem to know what to say or do in any situation. Are some people just better at knowing themselves and others? Or am I just seeing them at the end of years of trial and error? I worry sometimes about sounding like a total disaster. I worry about not giving the folks I supervise the support they need. I worry about being a good advocate and a decent human being. I also didn’t expect to be this uncertain at 40. But maybe that’s what happens when jobs change?

Whenever I take those management profiles/work personality tests/corporate horoscopes I never get the equivalent of THE BIG IN CHARGE, the color or acronym or number that means you are decisive, a natural leader, charismatic, and driven. I hear all the time that people who end up in management or leadership roles were promoted up past their point of effectiveness, and maybe not being THE BIG IN CHARGE personality type means that’s me. Or maybe I am just a different kind of manager and leader. I want to inspire confidence and find ways to motivate those around me and make them proud of the work they do. I think at this point in my career I am struggling to find my managerial motivation. What is going to keep me going in this job? What is going to sustain me in the hours I have at work and make me feel like I’ve done a good job? Maybe this is a question for my managerial / supervisory peers: What keeps you motivated in this role?


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