Sunday, October 18, 2015

Why Boss's Day Makes Me Cringe

I'm sure there are bosses and managers all over who actually enjoy Boss's Day. Not me, though. As a high school principal, Boss's Day makes me cringe.

Before I get any farther with this, I should point out that I work with an amazing admin team, who took a few minutes out of their day on Friday to show me some love on Boss's Day. Their gesture was kind, witty, and greatly appreciated. I had no idea they had anything planned, and the surprise truly made my day. For their thoughtfulness, I am grateful.

But Boss's Day still makes me cringe.

As a high school principal, technically I am the boss. By default and by definition, I ultimately am responsible for everything that happens in my building. I am accountable to my boss and my stakeholders for every standardized test score, every budgetary dollar, every college placement, every new hire, and every contract termination. I am accountable for the culture, the learning environment, the professional growth of my faculty and the partnership my school creates with stakeholders. For all of these reasons and more, I am the boss.

So, what's my problem with Boss's Day?

I often tell members of my team that "I reserve the right to play the boss card." After all, the buck stops with me. I have worked tirelessly for years, though, to create a culture and an organization in which my entire team can function without a boss. In other words, I have worked to foster independent thinking, creativity and freedom to explore new ideas. I have worked to create a culture in which everyone on the team takes equal ownership and responsibility for our wins and our losses. I have worked to create an organization without a hierarchy so that members of the organization feel they have a voice and say in what happens within the organization. I have worked hard not to be the boss.

Granted, there are times when I have to be the boss. Thankfully, after years of planning and execution, I don't often have to be the boss. When I walk the halls, I do not want members of my organization to think, "here comes the boss." I'd much rather be thought of as another member of the organization, a guy who is in the trenches along with every other member of the team, After all when we win, we all win. When we hit a speed bump, we all hit the bump together. When we face a challenge, we tackle the challenge head on, together, as a team.

The key to this kind of teamwork is that everyone on the team, every member of the organization, has been charged with doing something that lines up specifically with his or her gifts and talents. Ideally, no one's role is valued more or less than others. Algebra I instruction is no more or less important than counseling. Managing the front desk of the office is no more or less important than teaching AP English Literature and Composition. Providing superb college guidance is no more or less important than leading our choir. Teaching chemistry is no more or less important than serving in our library. Leading as principal is no more or less important than teaching Spanish I. How can I possibly think this? If anyone in the building does his or her job with anything less than excellence, the entire organization suffers. Each of us has been tasked with particular responsibilities, based on the things each of us does well. It just happens that my responsibilities differ from everyone else's. Each of us must fulfill these responsibilities as best we can.  When everyone in the organization understands this, and truly "gets it," hierarchy virtually disappears. When hierarchy disappears, there is little need for a boss.

My problem with Boss's Day is this: I don't want any more emphasis than necessary placed on the fact that technically I'm in charge. Instead, I want to be considered part of the team. I want a flat organization where I am seen as a contributor. Granted, I sign purchase orders and contracts; I hire and fire; I provide coaching for teachers; I cast a vision for the school; and I work daily to perpetuate the culture we have created. But those just happen to be the responsibilities that line up with my gifts and talents. I couldn't teach calculus or manage transcripts and report cards. Just like everyone else, I have a job to do. Unless we can find some arbitrary days throughout the year to recognize everyone else in the building, let's don't do Boss's Day again. It makes me cringe.

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