Everyone who has ever worked in retail, has either seen, heard of, or received an award, not because of something that you have done, but rather, for time served.
Here, you have given a year of your life, here is a generic fill in the blank postcard and a pin designating the amount of time that you have served. What is supposed to be a badge of honor ends up being more like the scarlet letter, telling the world just exactly what you have been doing the last year or two or ten.
When I worked in shoes, around the time of your anniversary (which is one anniversary that no one would get mad at you for forgetting) arrived, you would receive a pin marking the year of service as well as bonus bucks, which if you saved enough of them, you could turn in for fabulous prizes much like how things work at Chuck E Cheese. 10000 points gets you a plastic kazoo or a fake moustache, which seems fitting for a year of service.
When I reached the ten year mark, there was a certificate suitable for throwing in the trash, a ten year pin and a photo op, as if this was something worth remembering. Ironically, the same camera used to mark the event was the same one that was used to snap photos of those who stole from the store. Coincidence? I think not.
My current place of employment is no different, On the first anniversary of you joining the team, you receive a glossy generic postcard and a pin with the #1 on it. Another card and pin arrives when you reach your 3rd anniversary and again on your 5th and once more on your 10th. You were supposed to wear these pins with pride on your uniform, as if they were signs of rank and achievement similar to what one sees on a military uniform.
And if this wasn’t bad enough, there were other made up awards, more wastes of paper and time. One year, the company had its workers choose the person who best represented the 7 rules to work by that the company had made us memorize and recite upon request, and one person would be chosen in each district. And who won the first award? Yours truly. What did I win? A photo op with my boss, the DM, the RX DM and his assistant for the day. I received a certificate suitable for framing, a pin to wear (what is it with these pins anyway) and a plaque, all of which found their way into the trash, which is where they should have been in the first place. Awards mean nothing without real spirit and emotion behind them. Awards should truly recognize achievement and making the company a better place to work, and not a reason to stop working on a Tuesday to kill a few minutes and snap a few pictures before getting back to work at the job which will forget your name in the next five minutes.
Maybe awards would be better received if they had some humor behind them. How about an award for oddest reason to call in to work? I remember an employee’s mother calling in and saying her son couldn’t come to work because he was in jail. There was also the woman who said her grandmother had died and she had to go to the funeral yet who walked in but the dead grandmother. When we told her what her granddaughter had said, she replied, yeah she does that all the time. Or how about an award for most days worked without a vacation or most hours worked in one shift? Then there is the ever popular award for who has the weirdest work stories to tell (of course I would win that award lol).
Awards don’t have to be a waste of time and a joke, but sadly they are and will continue to be just that, until companies realize that employees don’t want pieces of paper and uniform decorations; what they really want is to be paid what they are worth and maybe some appreciation, real appreciation from time to time, not fill in the blank laminated postcards signed by a man who you will never meet and will never know your name.
Cover image courtesy of Cristian Ungureanu via Flickr