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ManagerFilter: Improving Staff Morale
May 24, 2005 1:59 PM   Subscribe

ManagerFilter:Need some easy, cost-effective tips for making the workday more fun and upbeat.

I work in a mid-size museum, and our front-line staff of historic interpreters is kind of down in the dumps. We had some changes in benefits that were unwelcome, coinciding with several illnesses among staff, and also coinciding with two weeks of the coldest, most heinous spring weather I can remember. These folks have to slog through the mud and rain to give tours, etc. I'm looking for some ways to make everyone feel more appreciated and add some small enjoyment to daily work.

Some parameters:
1. It's a highly educated work force, so anything cutesy or patronizing (balloons, insincere cheerleading) may fall flat.
2. There's no budget for this, and I can't make a very big personal outlay. Perks that are cheap or free to give will be welcome.
3. We need things that will fit into a normal workday - things we can do for people, leave in a mailbox, or say. We don't ever have the whole staff in one room, so parties, all-staff lunches, or things to do in meetings won't help here.

So if you've got any ideas - from either a boss or an employee perspective -- please post them here. What's one of the nicest little surprises or lagniappes you've experienced at work? Thanks.
posted by Miko to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Why wouldn't lunch work? My office does that a lot, they'll get sandwiches or pizza, set it up in an empty cube, office, or conference room, and people can just snag it when they're ready to eat, no need for everyone to be there at the same time.

The nice surprises I get at work are a bit pricey for most places, I work at a Fortune 100 and they act like they have money to burn. We get concert tickets for any show at one of the outdoor summer venues, theme park tickets, lunch a couple times a month, gift certificates for the staff cafeteria once a week, etc.

But, personally, I always appreciate the lunch since money is tight for me, homemade lunches invariably suck, and the cafeteria is pricey.
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:11 PM on May 24, 2005


We can't afford to get lunch for everybody. This is a staff of 45, a different combination of people every day of the week, so we'd have to do it for 7 days. This is a not-for-profit and I have no budget.
posted by Miko at 2:19 PM on May 24, 2005


This is a staff of 45, a different combination of people every day of the week, so we'd have to do it for 7 days. This is a not-for-profit and I have no budget.

Sounds like "Thank-you for everything" will have to do.
posted by docpops at 2:24 PM on May 24, 2005


Well, considering the weather, a week full of hot beverages may hit the spot and not break the bank.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:27 PM on May 24, 2005


I used to work at an indie video store owned by a couple who didn't have deep pockets when they first started out. They would bake us cookies, cakes and whatnot every once in a while to show their appreciation.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:27 PM on May 24, 2005


The nicest surprise I ever got was extra PTO, but it sounds like that's not an option. I would write a note (from you, not the organization) to each employee detailing the contributions that individual makes and why/how you appreciate it. The key is to make it as personal as possible, a generic note means nothing.

Also, what about something for the break room? Better coffee for a week, upgrading the water cooler or microwave, etc.? Are there any little things people grouch about that could be fixed but maybe aren't priorities?
posted by cali at 2:35 PM on May 24, 2005


I say, continue the beatings until morale improves.

Seriously, though, is there something you can do to coordinate some chore to remove some drudgery from their lives? Something little, like coordinating carpooling, or taking care of dry-cleaning pickup--stuff like that.
posted by adamrice at 2:47 PM on May 24, 2005


you can buy flats of seedlings pretty cheaply, and you wouldn't even need to pot them - just get a yard of fabric, cut up some squares, gather the fabric loosely around the roots & dirt, and tie a ribbon around the whole thing. you could do flowers or herbs and write a small tag that says something about "thanks for helping us grow" or whatever. it's not deeply personal, but it's thoughtful and sweet.
posted by post_it_note at 3:37 PM on May 24, 2005


I think it's lovely that you're trying to do something for them....but if you don't already know what they want, that could be a sign that you're not talking to them enough about their working environment. Set up a suggestion box, a bulletin board, or some other kind of communication so that employees can give you ideas. Encourage them to think outside of the box, to brainstorm ideas about what would help them do their jobs. I bet they could come up with a list of low/no-cost improvements themselves...they might resemble the helpful ideas posted here, but they'll probably be better tailored for their jobs.
posted by equipoise at 3:42 PM on May 24, 2005


i used to get coupons for free starbucks beverages that i would never use before they expired. i would also receive complimentary passes to local gyms. rather than keep letting them go to waste, i would made up a quizzes and awarded.

i was surprised by the response and the number of participants.
posted by elle.jeezy at 4:07 PM on May 24, 2005


I think it's lovely that you're trying to do something for them....but if you don't already know what they want, that could be a sign that you're not talking to them enough about their working environment. Set up a suggestion box, a bulletin board, or some other kind of communication so that employees can give you ideas. Encourage them to think outside of the box, to brainstorm ideas about what would help them do their jobs. I bet they could come up with a list of low/no-cost improvements themselves...they might resemble the helpful ideas posted here, but they'll probably be better tailored for their jobs.

We already do things like this, and the lines of communication about what people need to do their jobs are wide open. That doesn't make the weather and the sudden illnesses of three of our staff members any better, though. I'm looking for is just a nice surprise to lift everyone's mood a bit, an extra little pleasant bit in a day. Some great suggestions here (seedlings, hot beverages sound good, and I already do the notes and know they are good). Keep 'em coming.
posted by Miko at 6:33 PM on May 24, 2005


Some so-so ideas -

Show them that you, personally, care, by doing something like baking cookies - you can even find a huge range of cookie-cutters, so if you are competent enough to make sugar cookies and cut them out, you may be able to find an offbeat and tellingly appropriate shape (heart seems a little boring, but if it's sincere, and you include a heartfelt note, it could do a lot).

With a really good note, from you personally -- written or printed, maybe on a nice card -- even normal cookies would be nice. The note must come from your heart. I saw your blog. I know you can write :)

Of course, not everyone eats cookies, but something else minor to go with the note... I think the combination of token offering + sincere words could be good.

Maybe you can get somebody to donate something nice (it seems like the Great Harvest Bread Company in my town is always trying to give food away; not sure if you have them).

Or an exchange -- Can you talk your organization into exchanging free museum visits for free theater tickets (as an example)? This example might involve some work, especially since you've got 45 people you're working with, maybe setting up an exchange with several small theaters (asking them to trade 5 seats each or something. Or maybe you could exchange for passes to another museum.

I have a friend who "helps" out a massage student by letting the student practice on her. How bad could a student massage be? Maybe there are massage students in your area who could be persuaded... even a shoulder rub would be great. Hard to set this up for 45 people... that's about 9-10 per day, over 7 days... maybe doable.
posted by amtho at 8:26 PM on May 24, 2005


Just brainstorming here... how about a Polaroid camera and some film for the office? Coupled with a bulletin board, you can do things like have fun photos of each employee posted, plus the space/encouragement for people to write praiseful or silly notes to each other.
posted by xo at 9:16 PM on May 24, 2005


I just received a Presidential Volunteer Service Award at a potluck dinner where I volunteer. I don't usually go in for that kind of thing but I was oddly pleased by it. You get a pin, a certificate and a letter from John Glenn. I don't know what all is involved but the web address on the bottom of the letter is:
wwwpresidentialserviceawards.gov
For fun stuff maybe you could bring some games in or post word puzzles for people to work on over the day. I'm still working on that idea, maybe someone else could help since we're brainstorming & all.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:58 PM on May 24, 2005


Sorry, I just tried that address & it didn't work, this one does:
http://www.presidentialserviceawards.com/
posted by BoscosMom at 1:07 AM on May 25, 2005


I third (or fourth or whatever) the baked goods and beverages. Brownies, banana bread, muffins, cookies...all easy to make and transport, and not very time-consuming either.

If you've got a crock pot, you can make a good mulled cider with supermarket-grade jug cider.
posted by desuetude at 6:45 AM on May 25, 2005


Great suggestions, y'all. Today I went in and made homemafe hot chocolate for everyone throughout the lunch hours. Brought in mini marshmallows and whipped cream too. The whole shebang cost me $12.75. And people loved it! So there's a good one for ya.
posted by Miko at 7:23 PM on May 25, 2005


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