During my nearly 20 years in information technology (IT) in the corporate world, you can bet I saw my fair share of change. New technologies (duh!), processes, methodologies, organizational configurations, and so much more. The various organizations I worked for had different cultures, leaders, missions, and values. Regardless of where I worked, one thing remained the same, however. I always had to work on my birthday.
I’ve been a staunch advocate for giving each employee their birthday off since I shockingly discovered in my first year after college that I was expected to report to work on my birthday. And you won’t believe this! Chances were very good that on the big day, no one was going to tell me “happy birthday”, get me a card, or take me out to lunch.
Indeed, the closest my birthday got to any recognition most places was for my teammates to suggest (demand!) I bring in treats that I bought or prepared myself in order for them to, you know, celebrate (eat!).
And so my birthday, just like all my co-workers’ birthdays before mine, became nothing more than another day of the week on the calendar, that at most included treats. Regardless of how many co-workers and bosses I shared my “everyone should get their birthday off” idea with (and it was a lot!).
It’s not because every company doesn’t know when it is – birthday is actually a required field for employment. Nope. It’s not a lack of data. It’s about valuing and appreciating people.
Too often, organizations get focused on results, bottom-line numbers, growth, and profit. Yes, every company needs to be at least somewhat focused on these things, or they’ll go out of business! But… the key piece that this focus leaves out is people.
Having happy people is the best way to get results, bottom-line numbers, growth, and profit.
I know some of you reading are managers, directors, even senior such-and-suches for the this-and-thats. Do your employees feel appreciated? They will tell you if you ask them (and many will appreciate the fact that you asked, even if nothing else changes). But, I’d challenge you to think about how you can incorporate more appreciation into your span of control.
Maybe it’s not the birthday off thing, but there’s definitely something. Do it and don’t waste a whole bunch of time asking for permission to make it happen. I promise, even the best appreciation idea is likely to get shut down somewhere in the land of approvals and red tape (you know what I’m talking about!).
Or maybe you’re not at a level where you can influence top-down changes, so I guess you get a pass on taking positive action this week, right? No way! It’s like you don’t know me at all! There’s always something you can do!
Here’s an example from an awesome team I was fortunate enough to be a part of for a short period of time. The company wasn’t going out of their way to initiate appreciation programs at that time and there was a definite focus are doing more with less, reducing costs, etc. But on this particular team, we made sure to spend more time in appreciation mode than other teams I’d been on.
The idea was simple. We had a list of everyone’s birthday. And the person responsible for buying a card was the person whose birthday was most recently celebrated. They’d bring that card back to the office and then route it to all of us to sign (secretly, even though we all knew that this was happening, but there’s a little more fun to be had when it feels like a covert operation!). On the big day for you, you got a card with more than a bunch of names on it. You got true well wishes and notes of encouragement from your teammates.
That was a long time ago… but I still have my card.
And so, my birthday is coming up in the next week and I am celebrating by (you guessed it!) taking a day off from work. Not in a let’s-do-the-same-amount-of-work-but-on-different-days kind of way. Actually taking off. Which means that next week, there won’t be a blog post. But I’ll be back with my ramblings 2 weeks from now, renewed from some time away.
#PositiveAction What is one way to add more appreciation to your workplace this week? I have yet to meet a single employee who has felt OVER-appreciated at work!
Need some inspiration? Check out the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Chapman & White.