Kringle. Homemade cinnamon rolls. Fresh Michigan blueberries with diced local muskmelon. Did I mention Kringle?
These are several of the treats that I recall being shared by Engineering Library staff colleagues when I was a Library Associate and graduate student at the University of Michigan. To this day, I order Kringle from the O&H Danish Bakery during the holidays for my family. The Pecan and Raspberry Pair is my personal favorite.
There’s something about the selflessness of making or sharing tempting, seasonal foods that fill the stomach and cheer the soul that make colleagues feel appreciated. Bringing staff together for a much-needed (and administratively condoned) break, or to celebrate individual or group achievements within the department, strengthens connections and a collegial rapport internal to the unit. Inviting select others, by way of thanks or to meet and greet new staff outside the unit, is a bridge-building opportunity and means of establishing and maintaining relationships across the organization.
Food was an oft-mentioned theme in a long list of staff appreciation ideas that I reviewed recently. From birthday celebrations, to potlucks, to happy hours, to gift cards for coffee shops or restaurants, it’s clear that refreshments are associated with acknowledgement and communing together. Asking invitees or recipients what they might enjoy most when planning provisions tends to sweeten and personalize the gesture.
As with appreciation efforts, kitchen design should incorporate input from the individual(s) who will benefit. Plans for a remodel or the kitchen design for a new home should include insight from the cook(s), not only on function-based stations but efficiencies of proximity, space utilization and convenience. Some of my favorite new ideas in this arena are from a list of must-havesshared by a friend, Chris Browarski, who is an interior designer . A walk-in pantry isn’t practical for the space I have available, but a power strip of hidden outlets under the cupboards above the countertop and a built-in hot faucet in the main sink are definitely viable, desirable recommendations.
Another list of trends I’d found places emphasis on the social kitchen, incorporating a large island(s) that facilitate cooking, prep work, homework and dining, with the area reserved for the breakfast table replaced with a sitting area in the kitchen. I spend a great deal of time in my kitchen, and I want that space to be able to accommodate a myriad of family- and group-oriented needs.
For me, at present, these two concepts go hand-in-hand. If I’m to continue producing baked goods for my colleagues that are pleasing to the eye and palate, I need a new oven. And if I’m going to go the trouble to replace my oven and alter the cabinetry for the new unit, I might as well take the plunge and proceed with the remodel we’ve been considering since our last home-improvement project. My colleagues have gotten to know, understand and appreciate each other more through the gatherings and celebrations we’ve had with home-baked goods from my kitchen. And that’s a tradition worth sustaining.
By Jenifer Flaxbart. Jenifer is the Head Librarian for Reference and Information Services at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her MILS from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has lived in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Texas. Her interests include personal fitness, nurturing healthy habits in herself and others, mentoring staff and facilitating professional development, cooking, baking and cocktails. Jenifer has 19 years of supervisory and management experience, and she tweets @jflaxbart.