Tis the season – one reminder of the holiday season is the comedy Christmas Vacation. The 80’s classic is full of humorous scenes, including one that offers a lesson on employee recognition, morale, and engagement. Clark is expecting his Christmas bonus, a thank you for his commitment to the company, a bonus he’s received for the past 17 years. The scene goes a little something like this (rating PG-13):
Clark: [realizes his bonus is a jelly-club membership] If this isn’t the biggest bag-over-the-head, punch-in-the-face I ever got, GOD DAMN IT! [kicks at the presents under the tree]
Clark: [Finally revealing his Christmas Bonus to the family] It’s a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club.
Clark: Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?
So, employees – can you relate to Clark?
How would you react if your company didn’t bother to say thank you for your commitment, and assuming you’re a high performer, say thank you for excelling at your job? What if they took away an incentive you counted on without communicating to you why or even providing an alternative form of thank you?
A lesson for leaders – a few minutes later Cousin Eddie kidnaps Mr. Shirley, and shows up at the Griswold house with him tied up. Mr. Shirley’s wife calls the police and the SWAT team storms the Griswold house. Clark explains that he was upset when he found out about his bonus and that Eddie was just trying to help. The scene continues:
Mr. Frank Shirley: “Bonus? How did you get a bonus? I cut out bonuses this year.”
Clark: “Yeah, thanks for telling us. I was expecting a check. Instead I got enrolled in a jelly club. Seventeen years with the company. I’ve gotten a bonus every year but this one. You don’t want to give bonuses, fine! But when people count on them as part of their salary, well, what you did just plain…”
Mrs. Helen Shirley: Frank?
Mr. Frank Shirley: Remember how I was toying with the idea of suspending the Christmas bonuses?
Mrs. Helen Shirley: You *didn’t*! Well, of all the cheap lousy ways to save a buck!
SWAT Commander: That’s pretty low, mister! If I had a rubber hose, I would beat you…
So, leaders – you may be thinking, why should I care if my employees are recognized for their performance – I mean who is really going to kidnap me on Christmas?
Because if they aren’t recognized, then they are not likely to give the performance needed to satisfy customers, increase revenues, and help the organization grow and prosper. Who is going to help you achieve your company goals?
People have a fundamental human need to feel recognized, valued, heard and appreciated – particularly when they feel they’ve done a great job.
Granted, this is no longer the 80’s, and significant company-wide bonuses have become even rarer in the current economy (matter of fact it seems like these days more and more bonuses are going to CEOs than employees.) However, it doesn’t take a huge yearend bonus to say thank you and to keep engagement and retention levels up. Hint: don’t wait until the end of the year!
Questions regarding employee engagement and recognition – and some answers:
Employee engagement and recognition is about creating a win – win situation for both the organization and the employees. The first step in doing so – communicate. So, in the word of Harry S. Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Recognize your employees for a job well done, give credit where credit is due, and reap the rewards.
At the end of Christmas Vacation – Mr. Frank Shirley realized how important people are to the organization. It was a holiday miracle of sorts…
Mr. Frank Shirley: I changed my mind. I’m reinstating all the bonuses. Look, uh, sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn’t mean much, if to get it you have to hurt the ones you depend on. It’s people that make the difference, little people like you. So, Carl, whatever you got last year, add 20 percent.”
Everybody: “(Gasping with excitement.)”
Clark: “(Passes out.)”
So this year – perform your own holiday miracle (and keep performing it all year long) – don’t let it wait until you get kidnapped by Cousin Eddie! As the year comes to a close – are you taking steps to keep your employees engaged in in the new year? How are you thanking your employees for all their hard work?
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