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 #3: Putting Out Fires
Then there’s the time that Terry gets put in charge while the captain and Jake are quarantined with the mumps. As much as he’s a mega-stacked black cop, I really empathise with him here. He starts off with an overlong list of small jobs that he wants the squad to get done under his leadership. There’s nothing I like better than starting a new project with an overlong list of small jobs to get done.
In this case, none of them get done.
This makes Terry pretty disheartened, making him doubt his ability to lead the squad. He also becomes so frustrated with the constant tiny struggles of keeping his team in line that he slams an office door so hard that the windows shatter and the ceiling buckles, Hulk-style. Gina isn’t always the most supportive Nine-Niner, but she’s on Team Terry for this one, and she’s the one who lets him know that he’s actually doing a great job, even without getting through his list:
Gina Linetti: Do you want to know why the amazing Captain Holt has never gotten the evidence room cleaned or done anything on your list?
Terry Jeffords: Why?
Gina Linetti: It’s because all day long he’s putting out fires. That’s what a captain does. The only difference between you and Holt is he lacks the strength to close a door so hard a room blow up.
(Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season 3, episode 12, ‘Nine Days’)
This is the one that I’m carrying to work with me every damn day. Our stock rooms are messy and overflowing, we don’t get enough Visual Merchandising support, we have tons of excess stock to transfer out, and the memory keys on our phone don’t actually lead to the right places. These problems, big and small, are just some of the many things on my list. But I have to make peace with the possibility that I won’t have the time, energy, resources, or support to fix any of them.
No matter what else I get done at work, as long as I put out the fires, I am being a good manager.
That’s what managers do.