My high school yearbook staff are all slackers and idiots

I asked the director if I could get rid of them, but it looks like I'll be editing a pack of morons.

Published May 22, 2006 11:47AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

After reading your advice to the teenager having trouble with her friend, I thought you could help another teenager with a different problem.

Next year I will be a senior in high school and the editor of our yearbook. As someone who has worked on this yearbook since freshman year and placed copious amounts of time and effort into every project I've been given, I feel I should be entitled to make decisions regarding the rest of the staff.

Here's my problem: The more I work on the yearbook, the more I begin to hate mankind. The rest of my staff is selfish, lazy and uncreative. They're all dull. Many of them can't even open PageMaker, and they worked on the staff all year this year. I'm sick of roughly 98 percent of the entire staff, and wish that I could take the proofs to the pages and shove them down their throats.

This yearbook, thankfully, is over. However, we're spending our last weeks of school planning next year's book and taking applications for new staff members. Our director is usually the one who does the choosing in this operation. I would like nothing more than to take out the incompetent idiots working on the yearbook and replace them with hardworking individuals who I know could get the job done. Unfortunately, I don't believe I can do this without making my director's head explode and being attacked. (At our school, yearbook is considered a very "privileged" class because of everyone being able to skip out during the class period it's in, which is one of the main reasons so many slackers join.)

How can I go about making changes? I've asked for permission to comb through the staff, but I was denied. Is there any way you could recommend? I don't want to spend my senior year working on the entire yearbook when it takes a staff of at least 10 to produce one. If you could help me, I'll even dedicate next year's yearbook to you.

Rampaging Editor

Dear Rampaging Editor,

I'm going to suggest a way of approaching this problem that I hope will serve not just here but for similar problems in the future.

It involves a change in perspective.

This is not a moral lesson. It is a practical one. If you want something from your director, you have to offer the director something that will make her or him happy. Presumably what will make her happy is if the yearbook turns out really great and her involvement is stress-free. So how can you make the yearbook really great and also make it an enjoyable experience for your director?

By having the best team work on it.

OK. So you knew that. That is why you asked for power over the staff. But asking for power over the staff -- especially for the power to get rid of people -- was probably not the best way to get power over the staff. Asking for power makes people nervous, especially when younger, less experienced people ask for power from older, more experienced people.

Instead, what you want to do is offer your director something that will make her happy. And you want to avoid threatening her. If you are angry, calm down. If you are impatient, breathe slowly. Take notes on exactly what you want to say.

Tell the director that you can make this the best yearbook ever if you can only have her OK to bring in a handful of talented, hardworking people of your choosing.

But before you do that, first identify those people -- from two to five people whom you really want to work with who you also think will meet her approval. Ask them to work with you first. Get their commitment. Assemble your team. Then go to her and tell her that you promise you will make this the best yearbook ever if you can just have these people on your team.

Argue for the idea on the merits. Sell the people you want on their achievements and on their promise. If they are writers or photographers, show their work. Demonstrate that they are materially qualified.

Don't ask to get rid of the others. Put that problem aside. Just concentrate on the wisdom and justice of having these people work on the yearbook.

Be careful not to ask the director to relinquish power. People don't like to give up power. But they do like to have problems solved for them. They like to get credit for stuff. They like good outcomes. They like to feel that they made great decisions and that's why things turned out so well.

So sell it to your director that way.

If you cannot get these people on the staff because the yearbook class is already full, or because of bureaucratic barriers or red tape or a bad attitude or whatever, as a last resort, you can always try to work with them unofficially. It might be that there would be openings in the yearbook class later in the year. I don't know. I have no idea how it works, or how accommodating your director might be.

But the basic idea is to remember that in this situation and in similar situations, your director is not there to make you happy. The job is not there to make you happy. You are there to make everyone else happy. If you proceed with that objective, chances are your request will at least get a fair hearing.

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