Learning To Celebrate
Celebrating. In the summer of 1976 I landed my first real job—as a foreman in an Oscar Mayer meatpacking plant (now part of Kraft Foods). My previous jobs as a lifeguard, mowing lawns, shelving library books, and putting piers in the lake hadn’t prepared my for anything like this.
Work started at 6 AM (a rude awakening for a college kid) with a crew of workers 25-45 years older than I was. Some of them were hired into their jobs during World War II; some were parents of high school classmates. They had forgotten more about the best ways to do things than I could ever learn in a summer.
And, they had all learned one critical lesson—how to celebrate in the workplace.
On the first Friday on the job, my boss asked me to distribute the payroll. The moment each worker received a check, s/he tore open the envelope, stole a quick glance over the shoulder to be sure nobody was looking and gazed at it. After that everyone quickly huddled in a circle that was filled with laughter, good natured cursing and a quick exchange of dollar bills.
Nobody said a word to me about this. But I soon discovered everyone was playing a home-grown version of “liar’s poker” using the serial numbers on the paychecks.
Lessons Learned. I learned some great lessons from that crew…
- Celebrations in the workplace can take place for just about any reason—even an event as commonplace as payday.
- It’s simple things, such as laughing, involving the entire team, and saying “thank you” that give everyone a great feeling about a workplace.
- The more you celebrate in the workplace the better you become doing it.
If leaders wait to celebrate until there’s an infrequent, momentous event, say, breaking the annual sales record, workers feel uncomfortable, wait for direction and aren’t sure how to act. If celebrations are frequent, if they recognize performances at all levels in the organization and acknowledge achievements big and small, everyone feels the pride, the momentum and a sense of belonging.
Practicing the Lessons Learned. About ten years later I founded a venture-capital funded, technology-driven start-up company. Our team, mostly engineers, was talented and could work anywhere they wanted. The only reason they worked for my company is because they wanted to.
Every payday I made a point of personally handing paychecks to every employee, looking them in the eye, using their names, and saying “thank you”. Everyone knew the ritual. Every payday was a small celebration of thanks to each other for the continuing progress of a small, struggling company.
The Moral of the Story? It’s the thought that counts! It’s difficult to celebrate too often in the workplace; most companies don’t come close to doing it often enough. Employees, particularly the best ones, choose where to work — so it better be an enjoyable work environment. Better yet…a great work environment.
If you choose to give an employee gift such as gThankYou™ Gift Certificates, remember, it’s the thought that counts. If you can distribute our Gift Certificates personally, do it. If you can’t, perhaps you can have a member of the senior management team distribute the Certificates to department heads or team leaders with a heartfelt “thank you” before they in turn distribute them to the front line.
When you give gThankYou Certificates, it is the perfect time to tell everyone, managers and workers alike, how much you value and appreciate their work — and them. It’s the perfect way to say “thank you”!
If it’s not practical to personally hand our Certificates to each employee, try distributing them with payroll, and distributing a thoughtful letter or email to each employee. Later in the hallway or cafeteria you can tell everyone how much it means to give a Gift Certificate to everyone.