I’ve Said Too Much/I Haven’t Said Enough

No, this isn’t an entry on R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”. As much as I have championed open book management, I have been wondering lately where the balance is in what concerns/bad news you tell people in your organization and what you keep quiet.

Certainly the people whom you manage are there to help you solve problems so there should be some discussion going on. Also, it is unhealthy to keep certain facts from people (the accountant has embezzled all our money). If you are always smiling and saying all is well when there are clearly issues of concern circulating the office, you lose your credibility with people.

On the other hand, you can share too much information or information that has no bearing on the state of the company and can undermine your relationship with others. For example, saying something like -My greatest fear is that the Earth is going to plunge into the sun. I take massive drugs to prevent me from cowering under my desk but I forgot them today and the corporate officers are visiting. If I start screaming hysterically, could you come in and tell me I have a call on line 5?

But what about the less explicit occasions where you are creating uneasy feelings a little bit overtime with a comment here and there. Obviously, some people will over-analyze comments and see problems where none exist and others will be oblivious even if you standing next to them cackling and rubbing your hands together in a stereotypically evil fashion.

It is the people in the middle that you worry about and wonder if in expressing your concerns, you are giving the gradual impression that you can’t stand the pressure even though you are just mildly tired, frustrated and cranky.

Often it is necessary to say something of your mood and the causes so that people know to give you a little room and time to yourself and don’t assume they are the cause of your scowl. Provided you don’t tell them you will ruin their lives and careers if they don’t get out of your office or use some other unhealthy expression of your situation, this is a healthy means of communication and relationship building.

One can fall into a trap though of feeling that the more you relate, the healthier your relationship with those you supervise might be. You get into discussions of shifts in policy which are only being explored to weigh the positives and negatives and suddenly people are up in arms because they think these policies are being seriously considered as one more to screw them over. Meetings set aside for informed debate can become open forums where ultimatums are issued about what the decision had better be.

On other side is that if there is no discussion outside of meetings about what is being considered, people can perceive the secrecy as a sign that the powers that be are secretly planning to screw them over. Soon innuendo and rumors lead you to the same ultimatum issuing.

My joking aside. I do scrutinize my daily actions wondering if I am striking the balance or striking out. While I would love to know if anyone has a good set of rules written down in a book outlining what to say when, it is my strong suspicion that most people are flailing around in the dark as much as I am.

I guess this is why you can often get a college degree in business as either an art or a science(BA or BS) because it is both and neither.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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