Appreciating Your Staff: It’s Not All Fun, Games and Parties

Appreciating Your Staff: It’s Not All Fun, Games and Parties

by Laura Birkenhauer

This month, I was thrilled to be appointed head of the Staff Appreciation Committee at my library. Planning parties? Thanking awesome staff? Totally up my alley.

My first thought after the initial excitement? “Wait… I’m the head of the Party Planning Committee. I’m ANGELA.” #TruthTelling

CaptureThe Office references aside, this new role got my thoughts churning about what kinds of things actually make staff feel appreciated, important and valued. Special. You know, all those warm and fuzzy feelings that make us OK with working late night shifts, unjamming stubborn printers and dealing with drunk patrons.

So, guys, file this one away under the category of “Stuff to Remember Once I’m a Supervisor,” because we’re talking appreciating library staff.



1. Show me the money.

Um, DUH. Had to get that one out of the way. A pay raise or bonus can’t hurt. Jus’ sayin’.

An example of this in practice? Annually, at my library, one member of the library staff is granted the “Distinguished Service Award.” Staff members are nominated by coworkers and the award winner is chosen by the Staff Appreciation Committee, in collaboration with the Dean and select Assistant Dean(s). Now, not only does this award come with a giant picture of your face on the wall of the library for a whole year (because, what could be better?), but a $500 chunk of change in yo’ pocket. Cha-ching.

But lest you think we’re all singularly money hungry…

2. Reward us with experiences.

In other words, it’s not all about the material things. Sure, it’s great to get fancy engraved plaques, impressive certificates covered in gold seals and giant pictures of our faces on the wall, but what most of us want are valuable opportunities and experiences. Pay for that digital humanities webinar we really want to attend. Grant us time off to go to a conference. Allow us to switch up our schedule so we can attend an in-house training. Let us know through actions, rather than empty words, that you are on board with us growing, learning and realizing our potential.

3. Parties are nice, too.

But don’t go overboard. And don’t make attendance mandatory, people. I’m with Ask A Manager on this one. It’s counterintuitive to the goal of these events (read: to say “Thanks!”) to plan compulsory work parties and socials. For some, an obligatory soirée is not a Thank You. Remember that your employees not only have different skills, but different personalities. You may have one employee who’s the life of the party, while another internally cringes at the thought of politely chatting about The Amazing Race over lobster puffs.

4. Pay attention to language.

I’m currently reading The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, as part of a workplace leadership development group. In my reading, I came across a simple idea that made so much sense: What if, instead of using the words “employee, manager, boss, supervisor, subordinate, or hierarchy” which “can easily trap people into a particular way of thinking about roles and relationships” you switched these out for “associates, crew, cast members, team members, partners or even constituents” (p. 79)? Wouldn’t it be absolutely revolutionary if we could start thinking of each other in this way at work?

Yeah, I already know what you’re saying:

“This kind of change won’t just happen overnight!”

“The Boss won’t want to give up the authority of her title. She’ll never support this.”

“Hoping for this is incredibly and naively idealistic.”

But pause for a moment and think of the impact this could have. What if we weren’t “just staff” (or “just” anything) and could have a say and a voice in meetings with librarians? With supervisors? With deans? Which brings us too…

5. Give us seat at the table.

Include us! Simple as that.

And, in that spirit, I want to include you in this conversation! Let’s crowdsource a list for all those supervisors and managers out there in the library world reading this right now. What makes you feel valued at work? Do you have examples of successful staff appreciation events or initiatives at your library? Tell me below in the comments or on Twitter @LMBirkenhauer using the hashtag #StaffAppreciation!

Laura BirkenhaunerLaura Birkenhauer graduated from Miami University (Love and Honor!) with a BA in English-Creative Writing and from Kent State University with a MLIS. She returned to work for her undergraduate alma mater in 2011, shortly before finishing her MLIS, and has been working there ever since. She is employed by the Miami University Libraries as a Senior Library Technician, i.e. the only paraprofessional staff member of the Reference and Collection Services department. This means most of her time (35 hours/week) is spent working at the Information Desk, which she loves! She gets to interact with students and assist them with everything from finding a book to developing a research paper. Learn more about Laura’s education and experience in her Linkedin profile.

In her spare time, Laura enjoys reading, hiking and catching up on her latest TV obsessions. She resides in small town Oxford, Ohio, with her husband, Josh.

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