[hackerspaces] how to deal with tired staff, with hackespaces blues

Sam Ley sam.ley at gmail.com
Tue Jan 21 17:38:42 CET 2014

No matter how nicely people claim their own spaces run, there are always
issues popping up that have to be dealt with. A hackerspace where every
single member contributes equally is a bit of a unicorn - when dealing with
humans patterns tend to evolve.

I'm not "staff" at our space, but I am on the board, and the main lease,
and insurance policies, etc. and do a lot of work for the space. We had a
situation recently where the administrative work of the space had slowly
collected into a very small group of people (instead of being distributed,
as was the intent for a member-managed space). We also had a growing
respect problem, people sniping on emails, talking behind each others
backs, doing little things to intentionally bug other members, etc. Nothing
outrageous, but enough to be really frustrating.

We ended up calling for a group meeting (we don't have them that often),
and had a bit of a "come to Jesus" talk. We started out by going around the
circle and having everyone describe their favorite memory from the space
(we only have 18-22 members at a time so this didn't take forever) which
got people thinking about WHY they were involved at all.

Then we laid out what tasks we weren't going to keep doing (who wants to do
them?) and I just sort of spilled my guts on the personal respect issue and
asked the open question "who thinks this is a good way for a group to
run?". Fortunately our members are basically all good people who just got
sloppy, and everyone committed to trying harder.

This was a few months ago, and now things are mostly better. People are
taking on new responsibilities, there are still personality conflicts but
they are mostly getting dealt with head-on now rather than manifesting in
passive-aggressive behavior.

People are people, and it is important to continue to set the expectations.
It is amazing how much peoples behavior will change depending on the
initial expectations - why do people bus their own tables at quick-serve
restaurants, but don't even think about doing it at a fancy restaurant?
There aren't "people who clean up after themselves" and "people who don't",
just "people who respond to the subtle cues and expectations put on them".

Consider having a come to jesus meeting.
Consider having a more specific "new member" orientation process.
Stop doing some things for people - ask that someone new take on the
Get people to agree on something, or make some commitment for improvement.
Be honest - people probably don't want to make you frustrated, they just
aren't thinking about it.


On Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 8:47 AM, Joshua Pritt <ramgarden at gmail.com> wrote:

> We have cameras everywhere so if someone was seen using a tool or machine
> last and broke it they would need to pay for it to fix or replace it.  Or
> help try to fix it.
> Some of the more expensive tools that actually belong to a member but is
> left at the space for everyone to use has a strict, "if you break it you
> buy two" policy!
> On Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 10:39 AM, Florencia Edwards <floev22 at gmail.com>wrote:
>> thanks guys this is good advice!
>> 2014/1/21 dosman <dosman at packetsniffers.org>
>>> If the space is not "owned" by the members then it's going to be treated
>>> like a pay-for workshop service since that is what you are providing.
>>> There's nothing wrong with that, but it sounds like you need to charge more
>>> and pay your staff more if they are getting burned out. If you want the
>>> users to start cleaning up more then have your staff start enforcing
>>> cleanup by users. You could also reduce your open hours to reduce the
>>> burden on your staff. Yea none of these things are pleasant for the users
>>> but again, they are really customers, not members in this scenario.
>>> On the other hand, if you want the members to take more ownership in the
>>> space then you need to include them more. Start by kicking out any
>>> jackasses breaking shit if that's what it takes to build trust. Your
>>> community is small, someone knows who is causing the problems. Then get the
>>> members back with keyed access. Also like others have said, have some
>>> meetings with your member base, communicate that the core group is getting
>>> tired and that some folks need to step up and help or possibly transition
>>> into leadership roles. There may be people interested who have held back
>>> because current leadership has been closely guarded or has been doing a
>>> good job on the surface.
>>> On Jan 21, 2014, at 9:06 AM, Florencia Edwards wrote:
>>> > It's a different culture here. We have people in charge of
>>> coordinating workshops, of putting in a spreadsheet who are attending,
>>> another preson in charge of buying workshop materials, a person a in charge
>>> of the community to make blogposts, and general posts informing workshops
>>> and memberships to people out there who aren't member  and coordinating the
>>> general forum. A person in charge of content layout. This is the staff. The
>>> members are just doing their own projects, they don't have time for doing
>>> stuff for the makerspece. Where I live, people are not even used to wash
>>> their own dishes, we wash a lot for them
>>> >
>>> > And since rent is not cheap, we can't make memberships free or just a
>>> "donate what you can"  thing
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > 2014/1/21 Joshua Pritt <ramgarden at gmail.com>
>>> > What kind of work are you doing?  I've always thought of a hackerspace
>>> as a bunch of volunteers anyway. If anyone sees the trash can overflowing
>>> just take it out. If you see a giant pile of dirt or something on the floor
>>> sweep it up.  Then once a month or every third month hold a clean up day on
>>> a Saturday and everyone pitches in on a pizza and soda. The other bit of
>>> work would be running the space which is usually handled by the treasurer
>>> and president and secretary and facilities committee. These positions are
>>> elected by the members every quarter or semi annually.  This way someone
>>> who doesn't want to our doesn't have the time to run the place can let
>>> someone else do it. Of course there has to be someone to nominate
>>> themselves for each position and they know they are doing it for free so
>>> they have to really want to see the space continue to grow and thrive. I'm
>>> not sure how that would work if everyone has this survivor attitude...
>>> >
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > On Jan 21, 2014 8:45 AM, "Florencia Edwards" <floev22 at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>> > >
>>> > > Dear hackerspaces, how do you deal with a tired staff. I'm one of
>>> them, it seems like we work work work, and every day there are less
>>> members, less people willing to give something back to the space and  we
>>> get the feeling that the majority just wants to take and doesn't share ,
>>> wants discounts, and  to get  free materials but they never give anything
>>> to anyone. There are  people that think we are millionaires and want to
>>> take part of the cut any way they can.
>>> > >
>>> > > Here where we are from people don't trust each other, they are like
>>> survivors, try to get what they need and than they escape.
>>> > >
>>> > > And in fact, we are losing money every month. As staff we are badly
>>> paid, we are more sort of  volunteers, we can't get through the month with
>>> what we win. I work here at the space full time, than i get home and i keep
>>> working , I can't afford lunch anymore . We can sense that the whole staff
>>> is tired and in a bad mood, and the more time it passes it's worse. And I
>>> wish I could see more people happy with this, changing, wanting to share,
>>> wanting to make a community... But sometimes it feels like a illusion
>>> > >
>>> > > Any advice, or just share our pain hehe, we should make hackerspaces
>>> blues.
>>> > >
>>> > > _______________________________________________
>>> > > Discuss mailing list
>>> > > Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
>>> > > http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
>>> > >
>>> >
>>> >
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