employee recognition by Milwaukee Bucks Manager Herb KohlHerb Kohl, who recently sold the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team for $550 million, made headlines this week for an extraordinary gesture of employee recognition.
Kohl sent each employee at the Bucks’ home arena, BMO Harris Bradley Center, a farewell letter of gratitude and a check for $500.
“I am not quick to shed tears. I sat there and shed tears for maybe five to 10 minutes because nobody just walks up, gives you $500,” Izeal Atkins, an usher at the arena, told WISN 12 News. Asked if he had a message for Kohl, Atkins responded, “I’m kind of speechless still. It’s still kind of fresh in my head, but I thank you.”
Another BMO Harris Bradley Center employee, security guard Markeish Stringer, told WISN 12 News, “I was very surprised. You don’t hear about people doing that. … I was very happy.”
News of Kohl’s farewell gift spread quickly, getting coverage in the Milwaukee Journal SentinelESPNYahoo! Sports and Opposing Views. Commenters on the stories praised Kohl, a former U.S. Senator, for his generosity:
“Classy move, Mr. Kohl. Thanks again for keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee.”
“They don’t make ’em like they used to. #classact
“Cheers to Mr. Kohl for keeping the team in Milwaukee and for his awesome gesture on top of that.”
“You have to give respect to someone who has millions in the bank and is willing to share it with others. That money means a lot to the workers there.”
Kohl’s farewell gesture represents some of the best practices in employee recognition. Here are four reasons why:
1. He recognized employees who don’t typically get much glory for their work — the ushers, security guards, ticket sellers and other entry-level workers who keep operations running smoothly but often don’t get the recognition they deserve.

Herb Kohl letter of gratitude

via WISN 12 News


2. He included a thoughtful note with his gift. (See photo above.) It reads, “Today, I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for your efforts to make the Milwaukee Bucks experience at the BMO Harris Bradley Center the very best for our patrons and fans. From customer service to safety and entertainment, before, during and after each game, your efforts always made me proud to represent the Bucks. That’s why I am pleased to provide you with a gesture of my appreciation. Enclosed please find a check along with my heartfelt thanks. I wish the very best to you and your family.”
3. While he didn’t individualize each letter, he did express specifics about his gratitude. He could’ve just said, generically, “Thanks for your hard work.” Instead he explains why what each employee does matters. It’s about creating the Milwaukee Bucks experience together. It’s about having team pride.
4. He also sends well wishes to the employee’s family — it’s a small detail, but it shows that he’s thinking of them as a fellow human being, not just as an employee. It’s a nice, humane touch.
The dollar figure on Kohl’s gifts may be out of reach for most of us, but his overall grace, gratitude and generosity are an inspiration. As WXOW 19 News put it: “Herb Kohl was not available for comment on Monday, but all of the employees say his actions speak louder than words.”
For more on employee recognition and building a culture of happiness at your company, download our FREE Guide to Workplace Gratitude. Click the image below and start sharing your gratitude today!
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