/writing/ An Inevitable Absence

TIME OFF WORK, it is a beautiful thing.

But as a manager it often seems the benefits of a holiday are off-set by the stresses of returning to unfinished work. Managing a team is difficult enough when present, and even more so when you aren’t.

It’s also true that absences are as inevitable as they are disruptive. Our employers owe us time away from the job and there are unplanned events: maternal leave, family emergencies, and sicknesses.

Inevitable disruptions that negatively impact our work. What to do?

I recently asked myself this question. My team and I faced a series of deadlines: printed calendars, on-site filming, finalized script writing, and communications coordination meetings.

And of course, I was due for a holiday.

We try to plan as best we can. Perhaps that holiday can wait until… But as any manager is well aware, there is never a good time to take a break. The work will always be there.

Organizational development offers a good starting point. It centers on setting up systems and processes that operate beyond any single individual in the organization. We look to build continuity into our team. Production must continue.

A consistent and clearly defined reporting template and timeline helps the team know exactly what to report, when, and to whom. A series of handover notes clearly defines what is expected of team members in the absence of the manager. A detailed outreach email to the donor (and your senior management team) helps them understand who is your team’s focal point.

These are systems that are established over time and they evolve to meet the unique needs of your department. They should be understood by each team member so the hand-off is as seamless as possible and so all team members can contribute. Teams – at every level – should be intricately involved in setting up these systems and processes from the beginning.

Be aware. A bad manager can use holidays to hold the communications department and larger organization ‘hostage.’ In their warped logic, by not setting up these systems and processes, they try to show how invaluable they are (See, I leave and nothing gets done. Therefore, you need me).

They intentionally want the work to stop. (Local staff should be aware, there are a lot of foreign consultants or managers that use this approach purposefully. It justifies the manager’s time, salary, and often, ego.)

Don’t be petty, don’t be a bad manager. Allow your team to grow and take over the work.

If the manager isn’t intentionally sabotaging the department, perhaps it’s laziness. That’s no better. Don’t be lazy. Put in the work to establish your systems and processes so that work can continue; so that your team can take on more responsibility.

All of this is to say, thank you to my team. You have done a wonderful job in my absence. You trusted the system.

Thanks for reading.

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