This past week we celebrated a Team Member’s 30th anniversary !! This is a rarity in any organization these days. She truly is beloved. When we sent out the notice that we were going to recognize her, many people, including several Executives and Senior Leaders, cleared their schedules to make sure they were present.
Our recognition program is very personalized. We meet our Team Members during their shift and at their location. We finally learned that recognition needs to be focused on the employee and not the HR program or benevolence of the company !! This simple shift has made recognition meaningful for all involved.
What made this occasion so great was the impact that this Team Member has had. EVERY person who came to say congratulations had worked with her including the CEO and the President of the company !! She has literally touched the lives of an incredible number of people who passed her to take on loftier roles in the organization.
When everyone gathered, there were loads of hugs, laughs and stories shared. She had at least one story about everyone who came. Here’s mine . . .
She is truly unique and salty !! When I started in my role, my first interaction with her was because she had hung signs in the kitchen that said, “Make sure to put away your mother*$#*%ing glasses !!” She heard that HR wanted to talk to her and she was ready for me. I told her that I’d like to take the signs down, and asked her why she felt the need to say these things. She didn’t miss a beat. “Do you see all the glasses sitting around ??” There was never any ill will or intent in her approach.
No one has ever felt threatened or hurt by her coarse language. When I talked to her I got to know her better and she got to know me as well. I make sure to drop by and see her every once in awhile and she says, “Hey, Steve, I haven’t put up any f*#$ng signs lately.” And, we howl !! We’ve both learned from each other over the years.
The whole time we were recognizing Louise, it was very emotional. We shed tears, laughed until it hurt and reveled in the stories from her 30 years with us. It was fantastic !!
As we were wrapping up, the President of the company shared this . . . “Recently, I read that to have a full life people should laugh out loud, cry out loud and touch someone else’s life every day – and Louise that describes you perfectly !!” You can guess that tears flowed freely.
I think it’s something that all of us as humans can take on as our mantra. This isn’t just an “HR” thing. You see I believe that our workplaces are full of people like Louise. It’s just that so many people continue to think that HR’s focus is on the negative. I hate when I hear people trying to learn from HR horror stories because that’s when idiotic policies, procedures and programs come to life.
I could have jumped her when I saw her signs. I could have written up a tenured employee because she was using harsh language. I could have overreacted and jumped to conclusions, created a massive anti-cursing policy with 5 levels of progressive discipline. Or, I could talk to her and hear her side of things.
I’m so glad I took the last approach.
I made sure I was Louise’s last hug. It was warm, caring and I told her how much she meant to me and to the lives of so many. She pulled back and said, “Thank You. Now get out of here you . . . “