By Shannon Kazmierczak
A long time ago, a supervisor told me that my morale was up to me. I felt completely slighted by this comment, but when it comes down to it–at work, in life, in everything–it is basically true. Given whatever situation you are in, you are in charge of your own attitude.
Recently my department head came to the unit heads with an idea: to create a small committee of people within the department to take on the task of making things a little more fun, building a little more camaraderie and hopefully, boosting our morale. She started asking for volunteers to start, and we know how that goes. . . don’t everyone jump at once! She then asked unit managers to pinpoint someone that might be able to bring their creativity or energy to the table. I (of course) volunteered before others had to be voluntold.
The group began with five part-timers which made it somewhat difficult to meet and plan, but with e-mail and that golden unicorn of a day when we could have at least a quorum, we made it work. Our first job was to give this “thing” a name. We came up with Bureau of Fun or BoF for short (a little cutesy and corny but it worked).
The next thing we did is come up with a short term task list that was easy to accomplish. We began with something that could be called a paper form of an ice-breaker. We asked everyone to fill out a two-truths-and-a-lie survey, and then one of the BoF members compiled it into a quiz form for everyone else to fill out. We gave everyone about a week to complete each task. Then we posted the results on the wall in a common area for all to see and gave a small little prize to the person who got the most answers correct. We essentially wanted to be able to get to know a little more about each other and hope for participation. We had about a 25% return rate on that project which we took as a win.
When it came to party planning here at work we seemed to have one person who took the responsibility to determine the day of the month we would celebrate everyone’s birthdays, landmark events, like new homes, presentations at conferences, etc. That party of one saw the BoF as a great opportunity to unload that responsibility, so we took it and ran.
We thought, why have just a normal celebration when we could have themes? Dip day, pizza day, pi(e) day, “oh my gourd it’s October”! We ask that food surround the theme if possible. When the email goes out with the date of celebration, that date is chosen to make sure the people whose birthday it is will (almost) all be there. We also make sure that no one feels pressured to bring things in, and that everyone can participate regardless of providing, and foods can be homemade or store bought. One member of the BoF provides cute flatware and another is usually there in the morning and tries to set up the buffet table with appropriate decorations. What better than food and a little party to bring people together? We usually see about 60% of our department over the course of the day to come by for a nibble and chat about life. With our department spanning two floors, it’s impossible for all of us to be at the same place at the same time, especially since, you know, patrons.
Another larger scale event we planned was an after-hours outing. This one was challenging to find a day and a time that worked for people and of course there is always an opposition to wanting to do something with your co-workers during non-work hours. We ended up having 10 people go to see the Downton Abbey movie at a nearby theater and it was a lot of fun. Someone snuck in treats, we laughed, we cried and we were all able to do it together.
Honestly, has working with this group has made a difference in my morale and my co-workers? I’m not 100% certain. I know I’m not the only one who looks forward to the one coworker who brings donuts from the local bakery to our monthly celebrations, or the fact that at least a few of us actually like to spend time together outside of work. When we all make the effort to realize that we are all a part of this wonderful ecosystem of people that have different interests and different skill sets but we all come together because we are passionate about this library and what we stand for, then yeah, I think my morale is boosted a little. Maybe this is what can get us through tougher times ahead.
Over the course of time we ended up losing a couple of part-timers going on to full-time positions (yay for them, boo for us). We’ve called out for replacements and some have willingly stepped up to the plate to take over temporarily (or so they think). We are still working on some ideas that could be spontaneous and fun but even those require a little bit of thought and planning. Our next big event is planning our department’s holiday celebration in December and we are hoping to step away from the tradition of sandwiches and all the clean up and set up done by one person. What could be more fun than decorating together and some festive music. . .