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‘Management is something you never stop learning about’

How do you best conduct a P&D interview? How do you deal with sick employees? In the online Management module, we have bundled answers to these questions and more. Dean Mark Rutgers and HR Advisor Brigitte Heming talk about the importance of the new module and how it will help to monitor work balance.

Mark Rutgers

Why was the Management module created?

Brigitte: ‘A while ago, the Work balance Steering Committee started a work plan. One of its goals was to offer practical support to superiors regarding the performance of their tasks. That is what we are doing with this module.’

Mark: ‘Management is namely something you never stop learning about. It doesn’t matter whether you have just started or whether, like in my case, you have taught classes on management: reflecting on what you do and perhaps should do is useful and necessary. By looking at other people’s knowledge and experiences you can simply become better. This module can help, in part because it offers knowledge on management, but also because it offers more insight into how you perform or could perform that role.’

Brigitte, you have been closely involved in the development of the module. What does it entail exactly?

Brigitte: ‘You could call it an online onboarding module for superiors. We show what we expect from superiors, but also what we stand for as a faculty, regarding management. Mark recorded a video on the core competencies of connective leadership, collaboration and organisation sensitivity, for example. These skills are not exclusive to superiors, but we want to emphasize that we, as a faculty, value them. When issues end up at HR, they usually concern one of these topics. 

In addition, the module mainly exists as an overview of all existing information. Superiors are guided through our website so that they can quickly find all sorts of relevant regulations. This is useful for superiors who have just started, but also for people who have been superiors for a while. Not everybody manages a large team, so not everybody has to deal with, for example, absenteeism on a regular basis. It is nice to be able to quickly look up information.’

How does this module contribute to a better work balance?

Mark: ‘Knowledge is power. Work balance, but mainly stress is to a large extent tied to how you look at how you function. If you don’t really know what to do, experience managing as a ‘lonely task’ or get insecure, it is very much a stressful task. Every now and then, every superior runs into feeling like their work is a hopeless fight. A better understanding of what to do and what is expected of you leads to being able to make better choices.’

Brigitte Heming

Brigitte: ‘In addition, the module is a tool for superiors to discuss their employees’ work balance. We emphasize the task you have as a superior to start the conversation about work balance. The module contains, for example, example questions for discussing this topic during the yearly Performance and Development Interviews. As a superior you also need to keep your finger on the pulse outside of those interviews, but creating space for this topic in a conversation is a start.’

Mark: ‘We indeed shouldn’t stop at one single module when it comes to attention for managing and work balance. Talking about it and sharing experiences, issues and insecurities with others remains important. I regularly read up on things. Sometimes articles or books that are more academic, like The fearless organisation, but just as often they are more practical oriented, like Hoe overleef ik moeilijke mensen? (How do I survive difficult people?, ed.) It taught me – using a variation on a joke by Brigitte Kaandorp (Dutch comedian, ed.) – that there is a difficult person in every group of colleagues. If you can’t find any in your group, it’s probably you. You should actually discuss texts like this with each other as a superior. Without ‘book clubs’ the module helps to create a more collective reference framework for superiors within the humanities.’

Do you have any other tips on how to monitor work balance, based on your own experiences?

Brigitte: ‘I make sure that I stick to my working hours as much as possible. I do not respond to emails during evenings and weekends. I can’t look at my business email on my phone, for example. I also make sure that I use all of my vacation hours. Something I even use more than I have and I have to buy extra days.’

Mark: ‘As I said: keeping your knowledge up to date helps, but also look for colleagues that you can blow off steam with every once in a while. Do this before the weekend, because getting some rest during weekends is indeed very important. In addition, I have three tips: 

  1. Never immediately answer difficult emails. Especially when you’re annoyed by something, the risk of giving a ‘careless’ answer is high and might get you into even more trouble. 
  2. Decide whether something is your problem or not: most colleagues are adults and you can ask of them to solve problems themselves.
  3. Finally: never send a difficult or unpleasant message to employees on Friday afternoon. They will explode on Monday (this advice has no scientific basis by the way). Realise that others like to burden you with their problems right before the weekend. In that case, reread the first tip. 

Management module 

The online Management module makes it easier for superiors to quickly find relevant information. The module is available here.

This article is part of a series on work balance at the Faculty of Humanities. Colleagues from all over the Faculty will be interviewed about work balance. What are bottlenecks both within work and within the faculty, what are good solutions and what can we learn from each other?

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