These are hard times in the Human Resources office. While grunts at their mindless tasks are counting the smoke breaks until they can drink, the Human Resources Representative knows no rest even after the whistle blows. Caught between the shifty maneuvers of the payroll-siphoning managers and the sea of bellyaching that characterizes the Antarctic workforce, the Human Resources Representative just wants everyone to be happy. Rubbing elbows with Upper Case and Lower Case alike she witnesses a spectrum of red-wine expectations and Steinlager frustrations and is thus possibly the only soul on station who learns as much about her job after-hours as she does during the workday. She is the sociologist as well as the bureaucrat, the counselor as well as the cop. Her job is not only to negotiate the messy labyrinth of broken promises by low-life managers and the squirming irresponsibility of unruly tradesmen, but to improve the workplace from head to toe: to hide unpleasantness and to highlight cheer.
The result of HR’s tireless quest to please everyone is a mishmash of threatening prohibition and let-it-all-hang-out permission that serves only to numb the employee to any directive whatsoever unless it involves immediate reward or punishment. Any call-to-action, no matter how overtly positive, is a potentially foreboding quicksand trap to be avoided, because in any matter of questionable behavior it will be HR, not the employee, who will ultimately interpret the scenario to determine whether the employee should be sent out on the next plane. When an ironworker with his dick hanging out of his pants in the bar is later brought to the HR office, it is unlikely that the memo urging employees to spice up their day with spontaneous behavior will be considered in his favor.
To illustrate this schizophrenic blend of daily directives, here is a document distributed by HR, “C.A.R.E. – The Elements of a Spirited Workplace” as interpreted through what is most commonly known as “The List of 50″ which lists (but is not limited to) fifty things an employee can do to get fired. “C.A.R.E. – The Elements of a Spirited Workplace” is printed in its entirety in plain text, while excerpts from “The List of 50″ are highlighted in bold:
C.A.R.E – THE ELEMENTS OF A SPIRITED WORKPLACE [RPSC reserves the right to discipline or discharge employees in connection with other unacceptable conduct, which it deems detrimental to the interests of RPSC or the USAP, or its employees.]
C stands for “Creative Communication” [9. Falsifying employment questionnaire or Company records.] [42. Unauthorized disclosure to the public, including the news media of Company sensitive information...]
A stands for “Atmosphere” and “Appreciation for All”
R stands for “Respect” and “Reason for Being”
E stands for “Empathy” and “Enthusiasm” [40. Entering into agreement with or making commitments to suppliers without delegated authority and appropriate approvals.]
THE JOY OF PLEASANT SURPRISES AT WORK
Spontaneous treats for employees really add a special joy to the atmosphere, one of saying “thanks,” especially when tough situations occur.
THE IDEA IN ACTION:
When the air-conditioning broke down on one of the hottest days of the year, the office manager ran out to the local grocery store and bought Popsicles for every employee. They then had a “stripping” ceremony where everyone took off their ties and pantyhose! The manager turned a horrible day into one that will long be remembered.
[22. Use of abusive, threatening or profane language.]
[25. Immoral or indecent conduct.]
[32. Making racial or ethnic slurs, or engaging in sexual or other forms of harassment against any employee, visitor, or others while using government provided equipment or while in RPSC managed facilities.]
[50. Intentional or flagrant disregard for USAP or NSF policies.]
Another organization has a “surprise treat” day once a month. On that day the managers do things like renting a popcorn machine or serving everyone coffee and donuts at their desks or “borrowing” an ice cream cart and delivering ice cream bars throughout the building. It is a special way of saying “Thanks for doing such good work.”
[20. Working on unauthorized projects in facilities or areas of operation managed by RPSC.]
[44. Misuse of RPSC managed assets or equipment.]
It is important to do things that fit into our culture, but don’t be afraid to have a little fun. We all need to “lighten up” now and then. All the research shows that spontaneous or surprise rewards get much more attention and response than things that are planned, so go out and surprise someone!
[6. Disorderly conduct in facilities or areas of operation managed by RPSC such as fighting, practical jokes, horseplay, etc.]
Think of special ways you can surprise others and add joy to their sometimes extremely difficult days.
THE IDEA IN ACTION:
Give a compliment to someone you don’t know.
Pick up someone’s mail and deliver it to them. [16. Theft from fellow employees, or from the Company, or from anyone in facilities or areas of operation managed by RPSC.]
Give a small anonymous gift to a co-worker who is down. [7. Unauthorized or unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, sale, possession, consumption, use or being under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or illegal drug during working time.]
Drop off a treat to another department that supports you. [19. Leaving department or job during working hours without proper permission.]
Call someone in the company just to say, “I appreciate you.” [15. Excessive personal use of Company or USAP telephones during work hours or charging personal calls on company phones.]
Surprise a co-worker with a newspaper or magazine that he/she would enjoy. [34. Possession, distribution, display, or reproduction of obscene or lewd literature or pictures in facilities or areas of operation managed by RPSC.]
Two machinists, Laude Jean and Mike Newman, who work in the small parts sub-factory at Menasco Aerospace in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, are hard workers with a sense of humor.
Claude and Mike’s work station is at a busy crossroad of an aisleway in the plant. There are wood partitions that divide the aisle from their work station. Every day Claude and Mike post interesting newspaper articles, results of the Menasco hockey team, and other items of great interest on the outside of the partition, enticing personnel to stop [5. Inefficient or careless performance of duties, including failure to maintain proper standard of workmanship or productivity.] and read the posted material. Most of the people who stop to read the things on the board grab the top or the side of the partition as they read. As they do so, they quietly receive a free “manicure” with brightly colored nail polish [3. Deliberate or careless damage to Company property, Government property or the property of others.] by either Claude or Mike on the other side. The “victims” all of a sudden at a meeting, in the cafeteria, or even when they get home, discover their polished nails and have no idea how this happened. It has given many Menasco employees a good chuckle!
Find people in our workplace who truly need a lift – and then surprise them. You might even think of something as fun as Claude and Mike!