How do you keep people from working themselves into the ground at an event?
You know them. Those people at events that you, as the autocrat (or chiurgeon) always have to look out for. Not because they're rude or drunk or clumsy, but because they're crazy and perfectionist and will work until they drop, carry heavy loads despite their injured back, run errands in the rain despite of having a bad cough, clean up after the feast until 3 a.m. and rise at half past six to make breakfast -- three days in a row.
While it is nice for an autocrat to have hard-working and eager staff, it's not nice (and not efficient) having to drive a member of said staff to the hospital because they collapsed.
So, what to do?
In theory, every person should know their limits and do not try to stretch them too far. Practically, they sometimes don't. IME there are several common reasons for that.
Ususally you notice when you work to hard. But if you love the work, if you feel great and needed, and if you get too little sleep and too much excitement, you can overdose on adrenaline and won't notice that you're overworked until you keel over.
Solutions: Keep an eye on people and a first-aid-kit handy!
1. Overconfidence: "Now matter how hard it is, I can do it."
Do not try to 'cure' these people, you are not their therapist. Remember who they are and only give them jobs they can manage. If they rely too much on their ability to do things on site, and because of that do not prepare properly, give them only on-site work and leave the preparing to others.
2. Overconscientiousness/Too much sense of duty.
These people will get the job done they have been assigned to or volunteered for, no matter what. Basically that's a good thing, but if there's too much work or too much adversity, they'll work themselves into the ground. Give them 'optional deputies', people they can call on if they can't do it on their own. (Example: The cook has volunteered to drive a few carloads of stuff in the morning. The car arrives late, so the cook can either drive or cook or try both and go bonkers. In this case, be ready to get another driver, even if you have to call him off the field or out of bed.)
3. Badly organized.
Some people have no grip at how to do work efficiently. Do not make them feastocrats or autocrats. Put them in a position where they can either be told what to do or have all night to finish the job (e.g. doing the dishes after feast).
4. Cannot say no.
Simple. Don't ask them to do things they cannot do. They will probably volunteer for autocrating even though they have an important exam on Monday, or volunteer to carry firewood all day when they just recover from surgery. Remember who they are and do not give them to much work.
Never ever put pressure on them.
5. Too much competence.
Some people are the best, the only, the only logical choice for a certain type of work. Say, you have exactly one person in the shire who has artistical talent. So you have her make the decoration, the scrolls, the prizes for the competition, help everyone with their garb and have her build the buffer weapons for the children because hers look so good, right? Wrong. People are suspectible to flattery. "It's important and only you can do it" can override even a sensible person's sense of self-preservation. If no-one but her can do all these things, then get other prizes, less decoration, and be content with silly-looking buffers, but do not let her do all the work.
6. Default for everything.
This is either a subset of 5) (the person who is the best in improvising and making on-the-fly decisions), or it's the seneshal/autocrat.
Generally it means that lots of (usually little) things need to be done, no one is responsible, so it either goes to the person who is know to Get Things Done or to the highest-ranking workhorse. Keep track of this kind of work, and find people responsible for it for the next event.
Due to some organisational mess-up a large event falls to a small group, i.e. a coronation to a shire with 4 people who are able to work (the others are sick, or on holiday, or on a business trip, or visiting their grandma...).
In this case, scream for help. Often. Loudly. And specifically. Most people like to help, but very few know the situation well enough to know how.
As soon as you notice the situation, call upon neighboring shires. Call upon non-SCA friends or family. Call upon the higher SCA reaches. Do not send an e-mail to everyone: Talk to them personally and explain what exactly you need someone (preferrably them) to do.
Have the troll ask everyone arriving if they might like to volunteer for a specific job that won't take too much of their event time.
If you need six people for kitchen grunt work, have a herald walk around and ask. Just calling for volunteers might work, too, but don't rely on it.
Never ask for generic 'help'. You'll get lots of goodwill, but nothing done. Ask for a cook, for a driver, for a marshall, for someone who does the shopping...
It's no shame to have to work understaffed, but it's sheer stupidity not to ask for help.
This is the worst, in a way. It means that there are people in the shire who think they're too good to help, ot that they do not need to because everything will turn out fine, or think that they did more than their due if they carried a single item to the event site, or that their meeting to form a household on 1pm on Sunday is more important than doing the cleanup.
The root of this difficulties can either be lack of information -- than it's relatively easy. Tell them what to do.
Or it's laziness. Hope you can do without them, then.
Or it's power issues, meaning that the people who do the work are not those who have a voice in the shire. I've seen it happen that people who did nothing at an event but hang around royalty got awards for a 'great event', while the people who worked 20 hours a day got reprimanded because they were rude, underdressed and didn't show up in court. That's extreme, but if that's the situation. then it's all out rotten. In the case I saw, the people who did the work drew satisfaction from problem solving, had enough humor and a healthy constitution. But as soon as it's not fun anymore, I'd recommend to the workhorses of such a group: Get the heck out of Dodge!
In cases 1-7 it's basically a management question. (8 is a 'political' question, I won't go into that any further.)
A good autocrat knows the strength and weaknesses of everyone who works at the event. Look out for people who can plan, keep track of resources, and keep to a timetable. Even if they cannot do much else, they are invaluable to the group.
An autocrat who delegates everything effectively and sits around at the event waiting for an emergency that does not happen is much more useful than one trying to do everything herself.
It's better to make someone feastocrat who cannot cook, but can organize the kitchen in a way that the person who can cook can do so under optimal conditions, than make the person who can cook feastocrat, overworking him with organizational stuff.
- keep it simple
- plan ahead
- assign reasonable workloads
- keep some resources (money, people, cars, food) up your sleeve for emergencies
- dare to be less-than-perfect
- get your priorities straight
- remember: if it cannot be done it doesn't need to be done.
IME it's normal that people need recovery after an event, and there's nothing wrong with it (I need to recover after a 3-day camping trip, too), but it should be nothing that a hot bath and a good night's sleep won't cure.
Psychological exhaustion can be generally reduced if work done is being appreciated, and by reducing pressure. That can be done by risk management (do not bite off more than you can swallow), and by keeping in mind that the world won't end, even if you mess it up completely. Part
of that is to absolutely avoid assigning blame for things that went wrong!
On after-event-meeting, make a list of what went wrong. Never, ever ask 'Who's to blame'. Only ask, 'What did happen and how can deal with it next time'.
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