Somehow this semester I have managed to alienate most of my student assistants. This wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t really care about them, but I do, and so I’m left to wonder the following important question: How does one become a good manager of people in the 18-22 age bracket without either becoming (a) a mom or (b) a dictator?
It’s true that I can be a tough manager. That’s only because I expect people to take some level of responsibility for their tasks. I believe in explaining, reiterating, and then letting someone do it. I watch over new students’ shoulders for their first few weeks on the desk, and then I let them be, reminding them to ask me or one of my employees if they have a problem or get confused or just need help.
The way I see it, nine bucks an hour is a pretty nice wage in exchange for shelving books and answering the telephone for a few hours at a time. But I can’t seem to motivate these kids to do much other than the bare minimum, thus reinforcing my stereotype that college kids just don’t care anymore, not just about schoolwork, but about anything aside from instant messaging and beer bongs. (That felt so crotchety to type.)
The truth is that I’m burning out, and fast. My first job — at the level of the students I’m managing — was almost nine years ago. I no longer have any interest in earning a library science degree, and I’m at the top of the paraprofessional food chain here. Customer service in an academic setting is really wearing me down. Maybe it’s time for me to leave libraries altogether.
I do love this old place. It’s my second home. I want to do right by it. I want it to flourish. I feel like it’s an old friend with whom I no longer have anything in common; to leave would be disloyal, and to stay would be a lie.