Management dilemmas: ask and ye might receive…. or not

I just had one of those moments. I walked into the office and the staff complained that the uninterruptible power supply was not functioning. I noticed that there were at least 30 items plugged into the UPS, which itself occupied only one outlet.

I was annoyed. “You’ve killed the UPS by plugging so much stuff into it.” This was true. After instructing the staff to only plug a certain number of essential items into the UPS, I discovered that there was only one functioning outlet in the entire room, which was the one being used.

So the cause of the problem was not an irresponsible (and dangerous) use of the outlet, but rather because there weren’t any other options available.

I had to fault the staff for not asking anyone to fix the broken outlets (which is the real reason the UPS failed) and asked them why they hadn’t brought it up. They said that they don’t bother to ask since they don’t expect anyone to do anything about it. They didn’t seem to have any problem asking for a new UPS, however.

It was a complicated feeling. On the one hand, I had to confront my own kneejerk biases (WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU?), on the other, I felt really bad that the staff feels like they can’t ask to get shit fixed, on the other, I’m confused that it’s ok to ask for new stuff rather than to fix a persistent problem.

Perhaps I’m not cut out for this?


About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

One response to “Management dilemmas: ask and ye might receive…. or not”

  1. deleuzean says :

    Seems to me that your thought process demonstrates precisely that you *are* cut out for this… so far.

    Now you have to take the next steps and learn to use your management powers (such as they may be) to marshal the necessary resources for bringing about institutional change.

    Let’s see if you’re cut out for that part… ^_^

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