CASE: BALANCING THE FUNCTIONS
Betty Wilson was administrative manager of the department of radiology. She was an outstanding example of someone who had come up through the ranks; Betty had been chief technician, a special procedures technician, a technician assigned to routine procedures, and years earlier a student in the hospital’s school of radiologic technology.
Because of her broad knowledge gained through experience and additional academic study in matters of radiation safety, as administrative manager she found herself called on more and more to substitute for the hospital’s radiation safety officer and to fill in as a special procedures technician when that area was short staffed. More frequently, however, she found herself resisting these technical-work intrusions on her management role, doing so until it became clear that Dr. Arnold, the medical chief of the department, disapproved of her behavior.
One day her manager, the hospital’s associate administrator, asked, “What’s wrong between you and Dr. Arnold? He claims that you’re no longer willing to help out in special procedures, and that the radiation safety committee has just about fallen apart because you wouldn’t take the chair and see that things got done. Is your work piling up to where you’ve got too much to do?”
Betty shook her head. “No, my workload is under control. I know that radiation safety needs help because of Susan’s off-and-on health problems, and the turnover in special procedures is killing us because those people are so hard to find in this area just now. What I think the problem really is—I seem to be in a dual role that I’m not comfortable with.”
“Meaning that I don’t really know if I’m a manager or a technical staff member or neither or both. I know special procedures and radiation safety fairly well, but it doesn’t take a manager to serve as radiation safety officer, and if I let it do so, radiation safety alone could take up more than half of my time.”
Betty continued, “And I always thought I was a good special procedures tech, but times change and it’s been a long time since I did that day in and day out. More than half the equipment there has changed since I worked there full time. One of the last times I was in there at Dr. Arnold’s direction, one of the techs—actually the only full-time special procedures tech we have—said he’d rather not have my help because coaching me along would slow him down and he could do it faster without me. Yet Dr. Arnold seems to regard me first and foremost as an extra pair of hands to be put wherever there’s staff work to be done.”
After a moment Betty concluded, “I’ve always believed that the basic job of a manager was to get things done through people, and I’ve tried to practice that ever since I entered management. I guess I really don’t know if I’m supposed to be a real manager or just another employee, and I’m afraid that doing all of this technical work is somehow making me less of a manager.”
- How is Betty functioning in both line and staff capacities?
- Do you agree that Betty’s performance of technical work as described could be making her “less of a manager,” as she fears? Justify your answer.
- Propose one set of circumstances under which Betty’s involvement in the technical tasks described would be fully appropriate.