What are They Talking About?

I was recently reading about troubles in another city that included complaints from employees that the management team met behind closed doors to say critical things about targeted individuals. The impression seemed to be that managers used their staff meetings to belittle and joke about employees. I don’t know how much validity there was to that impression, but it occurred to me that most City of Albany employees don’t get the chance to attend Directors’ meetings and consequently have no direct way of knowing what happens in them.

Agendas for staff meetings are available through my office, although they offer limited insight into the management team’s discussions. We spend much of our time talking about finance issues, project updates, upcoming Council items, and complaints from various sources. We sometimes talk about personnel issues, but usually only in general terms rather than about specific employees. Most recently, we’ve had some long discussions about a large increase in workers’ compensation claims and the effect they are having on the City’s insurance premiums. Directors have mentioned specific examples, but without disclosing names or any other personal information. My view of the management team meetings is that they are an important way to identify issues and help solve problems.

Employees who might be interested in attending a staff meeting will have a chance Wednesday, May 25, at 10:00 a.m. when our visiting fellows from the Philippines and Malaysia will present their impressions of Albany and the U.S. as they approach the end of their stay. I realize most employees will have other obligations (not to mention interests), but for those who can take a little time away from regular tasks without compromising what needs to get done, the presentations should be interesting and informative.

My goal for all City employees, and particularly for the management team, is that we will always do our best to live up to the ideals articulated in the City’s value statement. Respect is one of the cornerstones of these values and should not leave any room for degrading remarks or other forms of humiliation. Dealing with serious issues does not preclude humor, but jokes should not come at someone’s or some group’s expense.

I don’t know if the public allegations that appeared in the newspaper in another community were true, and there’s no reason for me to try to determine if they were. It is important to me, however, that all employees have the assurance that our organization and its management team are committed to respecting community residents and our fellow workers both publicly and privately.