Absentee owners ignore suggestions

Dear Joan:
I am 48 and was hired by as a Night Manager for a daycare, who provides service for parents with unconventional schedules- we’re open until midnight.  I had my reservations from the beginning, that the standards and philosophy were not in line with my experience with children.  However with a struggling economy and hours declining at my full-time job, I accepted the position. 
I have tried my best to voice my safety concerns for the children and staff.  I have submitted them in writing with solutions. I have stayed off the clock, and spent my own time to correct things, like removal of broken equipment, cleaning, organizing to make toys and learning tools more accessible to the children and staff.
There has been very little response to the issues at hand.  I wanted to stay to see if I made any extra effort, if they would see the need for change.  Some of the teachers are rising to the call, but I feel the owners have simply checked out. They don't believe in even holding monthly, or even quarterly staff meetings, to review and implement policy, or address concerns, so communications and morale has dropped and it is the children who suffer. 
I feel I must resign; my conscience cannot stay there any longer, under these conditions. However, practicality is telling me to stay for the income.  I have attached the letter to gain some input, to see if my concerns are unreasonable. Please help. I would love your input.
I don’t think asking parents to label their children’s personal items, or recording parent’s special requests are unreasonable policies. These are just a few of the suggestions you made in your letter. In addition, your letter was polite and professional, and if I were the owner, I would have welcomed your enthusiasm and desire for quality care and safety.
But I’m not the owner. Since you have not had a response from the owners, and don’t even see them engaged in the business, I think you can reasonably assume they don’t care. If this were a regular business their apathy would be frustrating. But this is an organization that is entrusted with the care of children, so it’s appalling.
So now you are on the horns of a dilemma: you need the paycheck and care about the children, yet you want to leave because the working conditions are out of line with your values.
There may be another solution—albeit temporary. You mentioned that some of the staff were rising to the call. If the owners are absent, why not try to champion the changes with the other managers? They are the ones running the place day-to-day—not the owners. At least you will feel as if you are working toward a worthy goal, rather than feeling frustrated.   Since you are a manager, there is nothing preventing you from implementing some of the changes on your own shift. If you have a reasonable relationship with the day manager, she may take an interest in collaborating with you on some of these improvement ideas. 
I recommend that you start with the small, easy to implement ideas. Since you may not be able to send out a policy to all employees and parents, you can quietly just do them on your own. For example, your staff can have a sign in sheet, when parents pick up their children. You can have a marker on hand to label clothing. You can make a special request form that a parent can quickly fill in.
Then you could talk about these changes to the other manager. If you approach her with the right spirit, she may buy in. You want her to feel included in doing the right thing; you don’t want her to think you are trying to tell her what to do.
Since some of the staff are starting to rally around your leadership, they may be happy that someone cares about raising the standards. Most people want to work in an environment they can be proud of. They want to do good work and they want someone to notice their efforts and hear their ideas. If you can get that kind of momentum going, you might be able to create a motivated, engaging environment.
In the meantime, you can be looking for another job. If your efforts don’t take hold, you will be planning your escape. And you will have lots of examples of change management to put on your next resume. On the other hand, if things start to turn around, you might find you don’t want to leave. The flip side of an absentee owner situation, is that you can fill the void with your own leadership.
What’s the worst thing that can happen? Would the owner sweep back in and fire you for implementing safety and quality standards?

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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