Susie Smith (a fictional character) has been working as a tech in an optometric dispensary for 10 years. Suddenly, the office manager quits and Smith is asked to assume the role. If she takes it, she’ll be responsible for the dispensary’s performance and its three techs. The position has a nice raise so it’sappealing. Should Smith take it or not? The answer is…it depends.

There are a lot of important things to consider. Like many optical employees, Smith will continue dispensing while she manages the dispensary’s business. I call this person a “working manager,” meaning that she continues to do her former work as she assumes management duties.

When will the doctor give Smith time to do management work? Usually, it’s assumed the manager will do it “when things are slow.” Understand that this is time that she will not be available to work with patients. If she doesn’t negotiate this managing time up front, she’ll quickly find that she’s doing it at night or on the weekends without additional pay because she can’t do it during the week. Or worse, she won’t be doing a good management job because she doesn’t have the time. Being a good manager takes planning and assessment of the business, sales, and the people who report to her. These things take time and can’t be done well on a “when you get a chance” schedule.

How much authority will the doctor give Smith? When the doctor gives her the position, he should also give Smith a clear idea of the authority she will have. Can she train employees? Can she fire someone? Can she cite someone for poor performance, lateness, etc.? Managers are always given responsibilities, but far too often they are given little or no authority. That puts them in a very bad spot because they are responsible for the performance of the dispensary and its employees but they can’t exert their authority to ensure that things are done as they want.

This is the worst situation there is for a manager-all the responsibility and no authority. In this scenario, employees go straight to the doctor and complain and Smith is guilty until proven innocent. She is powerless, which is deadly for managers.

There needs to be a clear understanding between the business owner and the working optical manager upfront. This includes defining the time when management tasks are to be accomplished, and what responsibilities and authority the manager has. With this understanding, the manager now has the right elements to be effective, assuming of course they have management skills to begin with.

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