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Winning at Working


Nan Russell

Nov 18, 2015

It Started With a Turkey

In the early days of a start-up company I once worked for, a plump turkey was a small thank you token given to employees around the holidays. The turkey-giving practice lasted maybe three years, until the growing size of the organization necessitated its change. While enhanced benefits emerged to replace that poultry gift, the missing turkey still appeared as a resentment issue years later in employee forums.

Not long ago, I was surprised to hear employees grumbling at a company that provided a daily complimentary hot breakfast to employees. Not enough organic fruit, too many high carb selections, no green tea, and limited options were frequent murmurs. Turns out their well-intentioned gesture was not met with any thanks, just complaints. What didn't surprise me was the management team's decision after only a few months to eliminate those breakfasts.

The squeaky wheel does get noticed, especially when there are no counter comments to balance the perception. While most of us appreciate a positive work environment, a thoughtful boss, and a grateful company, we can take these components for granted.

"Whatever gets rewarded gets done" is a common workplace axiom. But too often we think this philosophy should happen only one way -- from management to staff. The truth is we train our bosses how to treat us.

We encourage the withholding of information when we break a confidence; limit thank you gestures when we have an entitlement mentality; and reduce the possibility of time flexibility or work from home options when we fail to produce expected results on time. And when we do appreciate the extra time off, the additional benefit, or the gift card but we don't say so, our silence "trains" our bosses not to bother.

Articles tout how lack of appreciation from management negatively impacts commitment, turnover, and employee engagement. And that's true. But, what we don't hear is what lack of appreciation from employees is also doing. Good managers find it disheartening to have their well-intentioned rewards met only with complaints; frustrating to discover their thank you gestures unappreciated; and irritating to see a sense of entitlement prevailing. It's no wonder it's easier not to make the effort.

But people who are winning at working, at all levels, approach work relationships as important relationships, understanding that successful ones require focused effort from both parties. These efforts include open dialogue, mutual respect, and honest exchange. And people who are winning at working know the secret to any winning relationship is appreciation, gratitude, and a thank you now and then, no matter which side of the desk they sit on.

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