Sunday, January 27, 2008

Should you share the wealth?

You realize that one of your colleagues in the library is working many over-time hours to offer programming for patrons and that he has had to take from his collections budget to offer some additional services. This colleague is quite humble and has asked other members to downplay his extra hours in front of the director. Another colleague with a different program is much louder at staff meetings--citing her carefully accrued statistics and satisfaction reports from clients--and she is always good at securing additional funding for her programs, above what other departments receive. You have done a head-count and your modest colleague has a higher attendance at his programs, whereas your documented colleague has a lower attendance, and she has cancelled a few sessions, due to few or no attendees, and spent time on other projects.

Budget time is here: do you point out to the director that your quiet colleague could use some extra cash, even though you know your calculating colleague is counting on that money for her programming?

Do you stand up for the quiet man, who may go after you like John Wayne if you decide to help him, or do you stay silent and let the scrivener keep her scribblings? I would reason my way through this problem, stressing that I would like to see an equal distribution of the budget, especially in a case where the public--and the library--is benefiting from higher attendance.

Here are the points to touch on:
  • You can't punish one librarian for getting her work done on time by taking her money away.
  • However, the public is benefiting from another staff member's programs, so we need to support them with more funds, a refreshed librarian and stats that we can use to get some more money.
  • You will have to decide: talk with your colleagues, stressing the benefits to the public, or straight to the director, if you believe that a direct order is the only recourse. (The latter is the least favoured in the interview, but really the most likely in an actual workplace.)
  • There may be an HR shuffle that you feel you can give a (temporary) assist with. Taking on too many extra hours means that you will feel the burn-out and will only seem like brown-nosing to an interviewer: I'm so keen, I may never go home. Turn it into a temporary benefit, part of your professional education: gathering stats for the quiet one and marketing for the collector.
Your quiet colleague should be prompted to keep his stats--though he doesn't seem to have enough time to meet his programming requirements--so you may have to volunteer for an assist. After all, some of his overtime will have to be caught up by someone: try to package it as a learning experience for you, the rookie.

I hope an interviewer will indicate that you will have a mentor who can assist you with these problems, and will accept your rationale that you can't rob Peter to pay Paul. If you have encountered this problem in the past and you felt the situation was successfully resolved, tell the story and point out what you would replicate in a future situation to have the appropriate happy ending.

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