Shocking title I know… but we have all suffered loss and we know how fragile life can be. Of course for some they choose not to acknowledge the potential risk; but for most of us we make serious, carefully considered, legally binding plans in the event that something were to happen to us. Parents, in particular, feel the responsibility of planning for the event. Why? So that those we love are cared for and because we realize that life carries on. The loss is hard enough. We make plans so that our untimely ‘departure’ will not leave those we care about without guidance or direction- from funeral plans to care of children to financial issues.
Many of us pour our hearts and souls into our work; but how many of us think to leave directions to our colleagues in the event of our passing?
After so many years in the workplace, I recognize that no one is irreplaceable (We miss them absolutely! And maybe we will never find another that brings the same talents to the table… but we are all replaceable to an extent in the context of work). However, a sudden ‘departure’ can, depending upon the person’s responsibilities, and will cause ripples in the work process. Depending upon the person’s responsibilities, the effects can range from minor to nearly catastrophic. Are you the only person who knows the password to the Facebook account? Are you the only person with a key to that magic closet where they keep the check stock- is it on your key ring buried deep in your purse?
If you are the keeper of certain items such as these, make sure that you have documentation that can be used to carry on your good work. Of course you want to keep passwords and keys secure… but don’t keep them SO secret that NO one can locate them in an emergency.
If you are the Supervisor of staff who are keepers of these types of projects or information, sit with each person and develop a plan ‘just in case’.
If you are the Director, have you thought of what would occur if one day you did not successfully make the journey to the office? Who would take the lead? Who would make the calls? Have you left your Board Chair with guidance of who you feel would be best suited to take a lead role in such a transition?
These issues apply to Libraries of every type and size. In large organizations you have the benefit that there are many partners on various projects. The Director will likely be working with Human Resources, Business Managers, Supervisors, Branch Operations Directors, etc. This may allow for an easier transition than in a smaller library where the Director is gatekeeper to ongoing vendor issues, budgets, labor matters, and more. Plus, in large organizations it is absolutely vital for each individual to provide some type of backup plan. By their very nature, large organizations may more easily lose sight of the fact that one individual is holding a lynch pin upon which many other factors of a project or task rely.
This is a difficult and uncomfortable subject. It raises fear and pain in the hearts of many. However, it is essential… and inevitable. And the best, most responsible approach we can all take, just as we do in our personal life, is not to obsess or deny but rather to make a realistic and fair plan that is revisited as necessary.