It’s been a bit quiet around here, and I feel it’s worth explaining, rather than just letting the dust gather.
The reasons are threefold really.
I’m told less and less about the fantastic kids a FOH worker dealt with, or the comedic actions of colleagues, and more and more about the frustrations. The sad side of staff feeling undervalued, overworked and under-resourced by an increasingly financially squeezed workplace. Or outright redundant, and now scrabbling for one of the few paid roles remaining.
These are tales which need to be told, issues which should be raised. A perfect storm feels to be happening, as slowly growing appreciation for front of house staff bounces off against decisions being made which negatively impact on them.
There is a good movement at the moment to raise the profile of front of house staff, to highlight and tackle the inequalities, recognise their sills, acknowledge and alter the prejudices. Front of House Museums https://fohmuseums.wordpress.com/ and the Museum Wellness Network https://museumwellnessnetwork.wordpress.com/ spring to mind, as does MAGnet https://www.magnetmanchester.org/ with blogs from their volunteers, and staff in the shop and cafe. More venues and organisations are acknowledging their front of house staff as invaluable, the first port of call for visitors, the link between object and experience.
Yet, at the same time, staff are being replaced by volunteers, whittled down, underpaid, and distraught as they watch changes happen around them, with some managers unwilling to listen to alternative suggestions. Managers can’t magically make money appear, but it should still be possible to be clear, honest, timely and open in conversations with staff, so they don’t feel misled, confused and distrusted on top of other issues.
I suspect that you will only want so many cartoons about staff being made redundant in a series of mishandled announcements. I suspect that a set of cartoons about almost all activities and workshops gradually being cancelled, and visitors complaining, won’t raise a laugh. I suspect that “Front of House staff member deals with volunteer being inappropriate, while doing duties removed from the staff member” won’t be a popular series.
There are undeniably good and heart-warming tales too, the day to day interaction, the larger scale changes. I’m just weighing up what I draw up for you next, and how to adequately reflect what’s going on for the attendants, facilitators, visitor services, retail, operations out there.
Webcomic and occasional blog about the heritage sector.
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