Thursday, February 26, 2009
In 1999, I had just become the General Manager for a Real Estate Development Company and my first project had just placed the final, top piece of steel layer on the building. As is customary, together with the general contractor, we hosted a "topping out party" to commemorate this point in the construction of a building. All the trades involved in the construction, all the engineers and architects and my staff were treated to a big lunch on the property and then everyone got to go home early. In front of over 120 guys and a few women, I thanked everyone for all their hard work to date and wished for continued safety in the completion of the project. Of course, most of the tradesmen had been through this process many times in their career, but it was a big deal for me. I was a little nervous to speak to them as "the person in charge" but I was honored to be surrounded by so many competent workers. I remember the caterer brought delicious barbecued chicken and beef, a bunch of side dishes and some amazing brownies and cookies. For once, everyone sat for more than ten minutes to eat and talk to each other. My company gave me a nice budget to host a really nice lunch for a traditional ceremonial event and I think everyone truly enjoyed themselves. Getting to go home early was also much appreciated as the days on site were long and grueling. In the scheme of the $89+ Million dollar project, hosting a fun lunch and losing a half day of work does not amount to much money, but it represents something far more important. This is the FUN aspect of work and helps define the WHY we go to work and continue to work so hard.
Later that same year, it was "Take Your Child To Work Day" and I was bringing my two sons in with me. I was doing a presentation for the Chairman and President using power point and I let the boys operate the computer. They got to have a coke and some M&M's during my brief talk. Then Jon, my construction manager, let them take turns wearing his hard hat. At the end of the day, both boys said I had a really FUN job! The same could not be said for Libby's son. She was in the accounting department, and her son looked at spreadsheets all day in silence and he deemed her career "a waste". I think President Obama and his entourage of staff could learn a thing or two about why people are willing to work hard and should study why some companies retain their employees better than others. FUN is not a four-letter word!
I am pretty sure I never want to be employed as a staff member in John Kerry's or Barney Fife's (I mean Frank's!) office as it sounds like they think 'all work and no play' is the only legitimate way to run a business. And without studying the details of a Northern Trust company or any other company, I think we should not be so quick to think negatively with their efforts to incentify and please their employees. Even if they take money from the big old Federal Government, isn't it possible that that company will have better economic results when adding a little FUN to their business plan? Some fun activities are tradition as in my topping out event and others are designed to bring out the competitiveness of the staff and sell more widgets or whatever. Having FUN and enjoying your job is one of the things Americans have always gotten right....until now. A golf tournament? Boo. A trip to Las Vegas for middle-class employees who have worked their butts off all year? Boo. You've got to be kidding. This is what the rest of the world is envious about, we get to bake our cake and eat it, too.
Jump ahead four years: Let's say Obama has free rein and all FUN items are removed from every office no matter whether it's real estate development, a bank or a company that sells lumber. Do we collectively work as hard or do we punch out at 5:01 pm? Do we know our fellow employees well or are they just another name on the phone list? And don't get me started on on the jobs that could be lost in hotels, the food industry and the golf courses because all fun events have been cancelled! That's got to be a whole other ranting post.
Regulate, yes. Review and challenge, yes. But please do not remove the real reasons why we leave our children each day working for this great economy. Will someone please talk to Barack for me about this, I am just too angry to speak to him write now!