June 18, 2020
Albertus Magnus College (CT)
It certainly has been a stressful and trying time for our students as they navigated their worlds being turned upside down since March. One thing that I've thought a great deal about is our professional staff. As someone that currently supervises four full time staff members in my office, I regularly check in and see how they are doing with taking care of themselves during what is definitely a challenging time. I don't think any of us thought working from home would last this long, never mind if you happen to have other distractions at home while trying to work.
Taking care of and nurturing others has been a part of me since an early age. I cared for my brother after school when my parents worked, I originally went to school to be an elementary school teacher because I wanted to be someone that students could look up to, rely on and learn from. When I decided to pursue a career in Student Affairs, that didn't change, just my audience did. The work I do each day with students, and now also professional staff is very fulfilling and also gives me a sense of purpose.
In my division, I'm known as the "mom" of the office, constantly checking in on people, asking how they are doing, what fun plans they have coming up or even how their family is doing. For my colleagues that have children, family members that live with them and/or significant others, I often ask about them and try to get to know them as well. It's something I've always done, and I also try to forge these relationships so that they last even when we don't work together anymore. Everyone has a story, a story worth sharing, and I love to listen and get to know their story.
I have always been someone that loves to send handwritten cards or letters, even before COVID-19. It's something I enjoy. In today's world, where we rely so heavily on technology, I love to send and receive cards. I like to make my own cards and also buy some cards and decorate the inside when I mail them. I also love adding stickers or stamps to make it more fun for the recipient.
I do realize that not everyone considers themselves creative, but everyone can be thoughtful and intentional. In my office, all new staff members complete a "Favorites" form when they start their position. We keep those on file so that if someone is having a bad day, needs a pick me up or if you just want to appreciate someone, you know a few things that are their "favorite" candy, snack, book, movie coffee shop, etc., so you can find a way to connect and appreciate each other.
I often try to give a small token or snack along with a card in order to keep motivating my staff and let them know they are doing a great job. Sometimes I do it for everyone at the same time (for example, for something like Valentine's Day or Thanksgiving, or when we all work a lot of extra hours around Orientation, Homecoming or Senior Week/Spring Week) and during other times, it's for an individual for something that I want them to know how hard they have worked or if they had a particular program that was successful. It's also great to recognize when someone just needs something to brighten their day. Making sure you know whether or not someone likes to be recognized publicly or privately is important to know about your staff. Everyone has their preference on how they are praised, complimented and recognized for their work; so be sure you know that about your staff.
These don't really cost a lot of money and can really help with staff retention, recognition and appreciation. It is something nice that can make a huge difference. Expressing your gratitude can make all the difference to an employee and/or co-worker. Simple words like THANK YOU is sometimes enough for someone to feel appreciated and cared for as an individual.
In writing this blog post, my intention was to share why I like to write handwritten cards, but it also turned into a way to share how I've learned to appreciate and thank people in my life, in my own way. I encourage all of you to find that way for you - whether you call more often, write, send a gift or simply smile at someone (we can still see your smile through a mask, it shows in your eyes), it can make all the difference to that person.
Be well and take care of yourself and others.
Erin Morrell is the associate dean for Campus Activities and Orientation at Albertus Magnus College (CT) and serves as the immediate past chair of the NACA Foundation Board of Trustees.
Related Professional Competency: Volunteer & Staff Management