The Too Long Goodbye

fish and houseguests

A few weeks ago I wrote about the retirement party for Maxine.  The party, typically, was a gathering in the cafeteria, with some presents, some speeches, and a sheet cake.  Maxine’s party, though sparsely attended, followed this pattern well.  The one exception was the gushing speech, complete with tears, from Sarah, her supervisor, on how valuable Maxine was and how she was irreplaceable.  While many of Maxine’s co-workers disagreed with this assessment, they smiled politely, had some cake, and left.

After the party had ended, the staff of Sarah’s department went back to the department and found a new e-mail in their boxes.  It was an invitation from Sarah, indicating that there was going to be a lunch for Maxine in a few weeks.  Maxine would not have to return to the office for this, as her retirement was going to be gradual, with her coming in as a ‘consultant’ for several months.  The staff began to refer to Maxine’s retirement as the Farewell Tour, wondering how long this would be dragged out.

The lunch itself even had a precedent.  For many retiring employees, their friends would hold some type of gathering for them.  The difference was that it was off company time, and paid for by the employees themselves.  The employees invited had the ability to attend or not attend, based on their feelings for the employee.  This lunch was different.  First, it was being held on company time.  Because of that, you were expected to attend, whether you wanted to or not.  If an employee pressed the issue, they would be allowed to stay behind, but would then face the wrath of Sarah in many small and ongoing ways.  No, this was a mandate to attend, or to face the consequences.

Additionally, this lunch, held at a rather expensive restaurant, was to be paid for by the department.  No other employee had ever received this type of treatment, and it made the staff wonder why Maxine received it, when others had left the department and had nothing done for them save for a cake and a card.  Was this going to be a precursor of Sarah’s tenure in the department, where some were treated differently, and better, than others?

Appreciating your team is something every leader should do.  A staff that is appreciated is a staff who will work harder, work longer, and provide more quality work.  However, that appreciation has to be uniform.  Everyone has to be be appreciated in some way or form, and the staff has to see no favoritism in this treatment.

When there is favoritism, the concept of appreciation takes a dark turn.  A manager who shows appreciation for one person’s work, but not another person’s, creates an atmosphere of distrust, disengagement, and disappointment.  For the haves, there is no real impact.  For the have-nots, it breeds a ‘why bother’ attitude, as nothing they will do can get recognition.

A good leader knows how to appreciate, but also how to do it justly.  They don’t let bad policies overstay their welcome.

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