failure as reward?

When I’m feeling distracted or overwhelmed, I can bribe myself.  “Sit here and finish this departmental self-study appendix, and if you do, you can go to the gym and then work on the technology report at home instead of the office.”  Sometimes it even works.

But much of the staff of the library I can do nothing with or for in terms of bribes or rewards. I have no carrots. I have no power over raises for CSEA employees, and I’m not sure that “I’ll give you a $500 raise if you’re awesome this year” does much for the UUP folks. So, like, what do I say to staff that are overworked and looking down the barrel of an ongoing economic downturn that results in staff shortages and budget restraint? “Hold up under the strain and someday we’ll hire to fill these personnel gaps” doesn’t have much oomph.

“You’re doing great work, and I appreciate how hard it is” seems to be the best I can do for morale and motivation.

Today I realized that “if we have to make further cuts, we’ll have to start cutting services” also works. Not because any of us want to cut services — far from it, and we’re all horrified by how close to the bone we are and how that’s impacting education and all the other services provided by New York State — but because it’s an acknowledgment that we’re only human. We can only do so much. We cannot be superpeople. We have tried, and if we’re pushed further, we’ll fail.  There’s power in acknowledging the limits of success and effort.

So. Rewards.

We’re doing great work. I appreciate how hard it is. If we have to make further cuts, we’ll have to start cutting services.

And if I finish struggling with this self-study appendix, I can go to the gym and then work on the technology report at home.

2 thoughts on “failure as reward?

  1. Pingback: Realism, cutting back, and letting go.

  2. Jessica

    Thank you for this! In my library, sadly, management has yet to thank the front line librarians who are working our asses off after hiring freezes and increased demand. I know there’s not much they can do – budgets are tight everywhere – but how they don’t realize a bit of acknowledgment and a thank you go a long way is beyond me.

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