(Get Dirty to) Validate Your Staff’s Roles

Lots of managers badmouth the jobs their staff do. You can draw a direct line from how much the boss validates the staff jobs to how motivated the staff are to do their jobs.

If a manager believes any job is ‘beneath’ him or her, then the staff won’t want to do that job. If a manager believes that the hardest, dirtiest, most complicated task should be their own, then staff will aspire to do the hardest, dirtiest, most complicated task they can. If a manager attempts to use their authority to rest, do less, or have privilege, then the staff will seek to rest, do less, and have privilege. 

At camp this is really easy to see and to avoid by action. One tactic I use all the time that works wonders (and is fun to boot!) is to play with kids. If you make it a habit to play with the kids as often as possible as an administrator at camp, then not only does that validate the counselors’ role of playing with kids, it helps them visualize what it means to get really good at their jobs – most administrators became administrators because they were really good at the “lower” job. In some jobs and roles it’s not practical to go do the work of your entry level staff, which means you have to be much more cognizant of the words you use to describe their role and job, as actions speak much louder than words.

A second valuable tactic for this at camp (and I recognize not everyone would choose this one, but you could pick your own gross/stressful job that you happen to enjoy) is that most days I would jump down in the kitchen and help out a counselor who had the chore of doing the whole camp’s dishes. I love the machine efficiency of using an industrial dishwasher, and knew that the dreaded dishes was often something that a new counselor had a lot of apprehension about. If I stepped in and helped out, something they thought would be a drag on their day and take up part of the coveted Rest Hour would instead be done in 20 minutes with little fuss. Knowing your boss has your back, gets your apprehensions, and is willing to get dirty to make sure you have a good day builds loyalty.

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