Everything I Know About Managing A Team I Learned From Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Part 1)

Right now, I am in the middle of five weeks of full time managing at my Boring Day Job. This was somehow both totally unexpected (I’ve only been there for nine months! I’ve never managed anyone!) and definitely the obvious solution to our shortstaffing (I was already working twice as many hours as usual! I already do most of the things a manager does! People keep telling me I’m doing a great job and they’re thankful that I’m there and want to support me!).
Full disclosure, I’ve never had a full time job. At one point I was lecturing and tutoring 12 hours a week plus working on my doctorate but that’s not really the same as clocking on for 8.5 hours a day. I’ve never accrued annual leave or had Rostered Days Off, until now. My coping strategy for this extreme increase in responsibility has been spending my free hours binge-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine for the umpteenth time. But it’s helping!

Lesson #1:  Holt’s Law
There’s this one episode where Rosa publicly harangues a patrol officer because he mishandled evidence in an important case. Yes, let’s face it, constructive criticism is a great learning tool, in the right hands. But in Rosa’s hands, it involves marching into Officer Dietmore’s workplace and handing him a kids’ police costume:


Rosa Diaz: Hey, Dietmore! If you’re gonna bag evidence like a five-year-old, you should have the right tools. It’s a My First Police kit … The walkie-talkie blows bubbles. Hope you can handle it.

(Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season 1, episode 20, ‘Fancy Brudgom’)

Initially,  Rosa responds to the captain’s request to apologise to the junior officer with further insults. But the captain tells her that her ‘zapping a rat in a maze’ approach isn’t going to work in the long run:

Capt. Holt: A real leader doesn’t zap people when they mess up. They teach them how to fix the problem.

(Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season 1, episode 20, ‘Fancy Brudgom’)

I have this tendency to harbour secret, irrational resentment of people when they screw up things that seem easy to me. That is definitely not a good quality for a manager to have, and, with some minor modifications, it was my go-to answer to ‘what is your biggest weakness?’ back when I was interviewing for jobs. But I took Holt’s Law with me to work last week and actually talked my co-worker through a minor thing they’d been doing (or, rather, not doing) that was bugging me. Turns out she hadn’t actually been taught how to do it properly, and if I’d acted like a leader sooner, I’d have saved myself a bunch of angst and made her feel more confident, too.



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