Multiple bosses means too many expectations

When I heard that Marion City Council met to discuss how it will evaluate interim city administrator Roger Holter, I was pleased. Holter deserves to know what council members’ expectations and priorities for him are — and so does the public. Unclear expectations have torpedoed many workers in bigger and smaller jobs than this one.

Unfortunately, I was quickly corrected. The meeting wasn’t about what criteria the city administrator should be evaluated on, but the mechanics, the procedures, of the evaluation. Having clear, specific procedures of how a worker will be evaluated is important, but the subjects the that worker will be evaluated on are an order of magnitude more important.

Then it occurred to me, it’s difficult for the city council to establish a clear set of objectives because different council members have differing ideas about what the city should be doing. That is five different sets of expectations for the city administrator to try to juggle, although there are some similarities between one council member and another’s expectations.

The council should come together to give the city administrator clear expectations. There are bound to be areas where council members disagree, but the expectations they agree on should be made abundantly clear to the administrator and the public. How important is responsiveness to public complaints or concerns? Getting the most out of the city’s work force? Applying for grants for infrastructure projects? And how should competing expectations be prioritized?

It doesn’t need to happen right away, because there are a couple of possibilities for change coming up with the determination of whether to remove the “interim” tag from Holter’s position and the spring elections. But whoever is in the position after that will deserve to not face competing, confusing expectations.