I think the administration of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library have a thing or two to learn about staff motivation, unless they want to motivate the staff to loathe the administration and quit en masse.
I’m not sure what else one could make of a survey handed out to employees at the beginning of the library’s staff development day. Via LIS News, here’s a link that reproduces the survey, on official letterhead and everything. Here’s the survey:
If your position were to be potentially targeted for (imminent) layoff, how would you like to be notified:
1. Would you want to know ahead of time? (circle one) Yes No
2. How would you prefer to be notified? (circle one)
c. Telephone call
d. Group meeting
I’m trying to imagine myself in the place of the person who wrote this survey, but it isn’t easy. I certainly don’t think I could have written a sentence like the first one. There are so many qualifications to the sentence – the italicized conditional if, the subjunctive were, the weaselly potentially – that the sentence almost implies that such a layoff would never really happen, when, according to this news article, layoffs are inevitable.
I would have written, “If at some point maybe we were possibly thinking about potentially discussing laying off some people, how do you think those hypothetical people would like to find out about it? We’re just curious. Really. Don’t give it another thought after taking this survey.”
That keeps the sinister we-don’t-really-give-a-fig-about-you undertone, and it keeps the same meaning while making the potential, possibly, hypothetical layoffs seem even more far-fetched.
The “circle one” Yes and No are so cute and reminiscent of grade school Valentine’s Day cards. “Will you be my Valentine and/or my rightsized employee? Circle Yes or No.” But they don’t give the library staff the full range of choices they deserve. How about a few other options?
- It depends. Can I come to work armed? I’m hoping the phrase “go library” catches on after Monday.
- Yes, as far in advance as possible so that I can start stealing office supplies and goofing off as much as possible.
- No, it doesn’t matter, because from now on I’m going to be stealing all the supplies and time I can from you heartless snakes.
- Don’t bother. I’m going on the market after lunch.
- I would prefer not to.
This is so much more circuitous than the blunter but truer, “If we’re going to fire you, should we give you some notice, or just fire you?” It’s good to ask, because we wouldn’t want to assume that a staff member would desire the common courtesy of advanced notice of anything bad in the works.
The first question deals with wants, but the second one is about preferences. I’m not sure there’s much of a difference here, but I thought I’d point it out. The notification preferences are a bit limited, especially for any Twopointopians in the crowd, so I suggest they add a few more:
e. The library blog
h. Carrier pidgeon
i. A note passed to me in a meeting
j. Angels whispering in my ears while harps play in the background
k. A colorful bookmark that I can treasure forever
l. A totebag with my name on it!
m. A certified check for $1,000,000 with “You’re fired!” in the memo section
n. An individual face to face meeting with my cowardly snake of a supervisor
o. None of the above
Alas, it seems the library administration didn’t want to offer as much choice as some might have liked.
It was staff development day, so I hope they had some useful development exercises for the staff. Resume and cover letter writing, interviewing skills, dressing for success, that sort of thing. It would have been the perfect complement to the survey, just as the survey was a perfect beginning to another perfect day.