Monday, December 13, 2021

Onboarding Meeting Scripts #3: Balance Your Workload

Actions to take: Follow the advice from past onboarding posts. In particular, spend time during weekly check-in meetings describing expectations for new employees who work under you. Read these scripts to help you develop those thoughts. Do not copy these scripts verbatim. Rather, use them as inspiration to develop scripts that are unique to your own management style and priorities.

Note: The following introduction will appear at the beginning of all four Onboarding Meeting Script posts.

Back in April of this year, I wrote two posts about the boss's job when it comes to onboarding a new employee (Onboarding New Employees - Part 1 and Onboarding New Employees - Part 2). These quickly became some of the most viewed pages on That is no doubt in part due to the hour-long podcast episode I had with ELGL Director Kirsten Wyatt on the subject. 

As part of a weekly onboarding check-in meeting, I encourage managers to spend time laying out big-picture expectations for their employees as explicitly as possible. Multiple times in my career, I have received positive, unsolicited feedback that I must keep doing this part of the onboarding check-in. I have also never met another manager who does it.  

In the linked materials above, I talk about this step in some detail. I don't think people can picture it very well without having seen it themselves. This short series is an attempt to rectify that. These scripts are exactly what I use when I deliver expectations "speeches" to my new employees during our check-in meetings. Please keep a few things in mind:

  • These are scripts. The nuance of tone, body language, eye contact, and minor improvisation depending on the employee's reactions are not conveyed here.
  • These are intended as example, not as a finished product for the reader. They are written to describe my managerial priorities and expectations. To have real meaning, your scripts need to be your own. Take inspiration from these, but I encourage you not to copy them verbatim.
  • These are written assuming that the new employee is a manager themselves. Most of the content stays the same (excepting script #4), but not all. Not only should you write scripts to match your management, you should tweak them to match the new employee's position.

Onboarding Script #3: Balance Your Workload

As part of your job, you are expected to understand all of the responsibilities set out for you and ensure that all of your obligations are met. This is challenging in every position. [Describe reasons specific to their job and refer to primary/urgent duties of their job]. It can be easy to focus on the primary duties and lose track of other work.

It is important to recognize that primary tasks are not your only tasks. There is other work that is not urgent, but still important. Those tasks must be done, and must be done well. An obvious example is training and professional development. It can be easy to think of that as “just something to be done” and not part of the “real” work. The most effective employees carve out time to not only do training, but actively engage in it. They take the time to think about how the information applies to their particular work. [For higher-level employees: At your level, there is significant expectation that you are not only doing training assigned, but also finding training and professional development opportunities on your own. One part of your job is to make yourself better at your job.]

There is also work related to big picture thinking and longer-term planning, even in the most basic jobs. Even a shelver at a library has some amount of this work, like helping design handbooks for new shelving employees or thinking about changes to processes that would make us more efficient. Your job [describe aspects of job that involve big picture thinking & long-term planning]. A lot of this work takes place in our brains. I call this hidden work, and it’s hard to do while looking busy. That makes it even harder to spend meaningful time on it, because you don’t want to look like you’re doing nothing. What I’m saying is, do this work when it needs to be done.

Finally, you are part of a team, and there is the work of communication. There is a management saying: “Work that isn’t communicated isn’t finished.” When problems occur, you are part of the group that reports them or helps solve them. There are always places to improve our processes—you are part of the group that can help develop and implement those new methods. You are part of our team, and therefore you need to keep yourself abreast of things going on in the library by checking your email, being attentive in meetings, talking with your coworkers, and asking questions. You must communicate your work to me. If you notice problems, it is part of your work to report those problems. If you have personal successes, it is part of your work to report those successes.

Here is my perspective: This is all your work. It all needs to be done, and it all needs to be done well. Your primary duties, such as [reference primary duties mentioned at beginning], “primary” is the wrong word. These duties are urgent. They need to be done or problems will arise very quickly. The other duties are less urgent. If you push them to the side, it isn’t obvious or problematic right away. But it is a problem. It will become obvious eventually. Failing to do those non-urgent tasks fully and completely is failing to do part of your job.

For that reason, you must balance your workload. You must learn to decide when to do which work. You must set aside time to complete work that is not staring you in the face every day. If you are struggling to do some task, or falling behind in your goals, or having any issue with your workload, it is your job to let me know so that I can help. We have options, but the issue must be communicated in order to be solved. It is my expectation and assumption that you are successfully balancing your workload or notifying me if you cannot.

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