Managing Campaign Staff

How to manage campaign staff and avoid burnout

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*Editor’s Note: A version of this post about managing campaign staff was originally published on the Campaign Insider blog at Campaigns & Elections.

Properly managing campaign staff is very challenging. That’s because staffers tend to be passionate advocates who want to make a difference and they often won’t complain when asked to work 80-plus hours a week for months ahead of an election.

But even the most passionate staffers get tired. What happens when the workaholic campaign lifestyle catches up with your team and productivity dips?

David Rosen advocates cutting down the workweek to 40 hours. But switching to a traditional schedule can’t solve the problems all campaigns face: Limited time, money and manpower.

With that in mind, here are four management tips to help campaigns keep their staff motivated for the long haul.

1. Give Time Off

Giving a staffer an evening off and telling her to come in later the next day is a good start. Even forcing her to take a weekend away can help. If you’re several months out from Election Day, consider making Sundays personal days for all but the most necessary staff.

For many, these are all the breaks needed to recharge the batteries.

2. Communicate Goals

Explain to your staff why their work is critical to winning and lay out what the campaign needs and expects from each member of your team. .

Meet with your team as a whole and individually at least once a week. Don’t skip these meetings when the campaign gets busy. If you need to, hold them outside of the office.

In the meetings, review the weekly goals laid out in your campaign plan. Talk through challenges that came up during the week. Look ahead at the coming weeks and do the same.

This will help everyone understand what’s most important for his or her time and energy. It also lets creates a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. When you enjoy the work you’re doing and can see light at the end of the tunnel (Election Day), fatigue is a much smaller issue.

3. Enforce Accountability

One rule of campaign season is that something will go wrong — how you handle it matters.

Good campaigns adapt as the environment changes, but you have to hold people accountable when they fall behind or make mistakes. You cannot let one person sink the whole campaign.

This doesn’t mean firing them, screaming at them or denigrating their performance. It means acknowledging the problem, then working together to fix it and prevent it from reoccurring.

4. Motivate

As the leader of your campaign, it’s your responsibility to motivate those who work with you. Campaigns are about relationships — how you build relationships with voters, donors, volunteers and the media directly affects your ability to win. The same holds true for your staff.

Take the time to get to know them. Congratulate and recognize their good work. Build a sense of team and pride in what you’re working toward. If your team wants to help you succeed, and is willing to do whatever it takes, you’re another step closer to victory.