William came back from vacation. He walked into the office and was told that there was an envelope and a silver coloured cardboard box on the safe for him.
He opened the envelope. It was a form letter congratulating him on 30 years of service. In the box was an award pin in honour of his 30 years.
William's supervisor just dropped everything off on his way through town, while William was on vacation. No personal effort was ever made to thank William for his dedication. No handshake. No phone call. Not even an e-mail.
William took the envelope and box and threw them in the trunk of his car where they remain. I asked him why he didn't take them out. He responded: "I don't even want to touch them. They make me feel dirty."
William is not a problem employee. He knows his job and has never been counselled. Each day he comes to work and does his job without supervision. His supervisor works in an office over 100 miles away.
Most companies would be thrilled to have employees who need no supervision. Many companies recognise that motivated employees are an important part of the work team. Some companies show care and concern for their employees. Some have too many cracks that let recognition opportunities slip through.
The company William works for is not a small company. It is a national company. You would recognise the name. Recognition can be one of the easiest things to accomplish. It lets people know that their work is appreciated. Lack of appreciation is a slap in the face.
William said: "Just when I think I can't think any less of the company and management, they come up with something new and my opinion is lowered again."
William didn't have long to wait - just a couple of months.
On a Wednesday, William reported to work and was told to call about a large luncheon in a nearby city to honour all employees with 30 years of service. The president of the company was flying in to speak and honour those dedicated employees. People were coming from hundreds and thousands of miles away. Nice. Right?
The event obviously took planning and coordination. The luncheon was on Friday. William was given less than two days' notice.
William tried to act as if the events didn't bother him and that he wouldn't have gone even with more notice. In reality, he was depressed. "In my mind I saw the silver package in my trunk and just kept thinking about wasting 30 years of my life," he confessed.
There is no happy ending to this story. As a matter of fact, it got worse. Adding insult to injury, later that day William didn't collect enough from a sale and finished up with a shortage at the till . . . which he had to pay.
In a USA Today article, writer Maggie Fox says: "A snub really does feel like a kick in the gut. The feeling is familiar to anyone who has been passed over in picking teams or snubbed at a party - a sickening, almost painful feeling in the stomach."
Ms Fox was writing about social distress. A study has been done with functional magnetic imaging that proves that the brain reacts to rejection and snubbing in the same way it reacts to physical pain. The study was published in the October 2003 issue of Science.
"A social snub and a big-toe stub can generate a similar response in the brain, suggesting emotional and physical pain are more closely related than was previously thought," says Anna Salleh of ABC Science Online.
While no one in today's business world condones physical violence, it's amazing what stress and pain can be inflicted by managers who are ill-equipped, ill-advised and ill-prepared to deal with social interactions and situations in the workplace.
William should have been recognised for his 30 years of service. He wasn't. He should have received positive reinforcement for his dedicated work. He didn't. A few kind words could have soothed hurt feelings. Kind words never came. Recognition motivates. Thoughtlessness produces just the opposite affect.