Today’s Morning Buzz is by Melissa Cantarero Weiss, ICMA-CM, Deputy City Administrator of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.
What I’m Listening To: All There Is with Anderson Cooper
What I’m Watching: Baking Impossible on Netflix
What I’m Reading: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
I have been reflecting on workplace gratitude.
We have 488 employees in our city workforce. Pre-pandemic, we hosted an annual employee recognition event. You know the type of thing – after business hours, dinner, a drink, a program recognizing our employees for their years of service and accomplishments that year. It was not very well attended. Some employees were working, some were taking care of families, and let’s be honest, an event like that is not everyone’s jam. I know for me, as a working mother in a two-career parent household, when I have a night off, I want to be with my family.
The first year of the pandemic, we hit pause on the event because we were not gathering in groups yet. We convened a group of employees from all departments to help us plan a way to recognize our employees for their service milestones. Instead of investing in the meal, we invested in gifts for them, and they loved it. We created a video featuring each employee celebrating a milestone and shared it with everyone on our employee intranet. It was uplifting and fun. We funded a pizza party at each city building, so employees could gather and have a meal. We got great feedback from our employees.
This year, I reached a milestone with the city and received my own recognition. Two employees came to my office and hand delivered a thank you gift to me and told me how much they appreciate my service to Wauwatosa. Every one of our employees reaching a 5, 10, 15, 20, 25+ year service milestone got a personal visit from employees on our planning committee. In our bags was a handwritten thank you note from the Mayor and City Administrator, as well as two nice gift cards. One to a local restaurant right sized for lunch and one to a major retailer for me to buy what I most want. Did I feel appreciated? YOU BET. This is the third municipality I have worked for and to receive such a nice gift at year five is novel. To top it off, this method of appreciation really works for me as an employee.
What we miss is connecting with colleagues who work in other city buildings. So, we are planning a summer barbecue during a weekday lunch so employees can swing by, grab lunch, and collide with colleagues while receiving appreciation from the management team who will serve them.
I recently read an article about gratitude at work. It cited research by a professor of psychology at UC Davis, Robert Emmons. I was compelled to read some of his work. He says, “Gratitude is the ultimate performance-enhancing substance.” In a review of over 50 different studies, researchers found that gratitude is impactful at work. Employees who are on the receiving end of gratitude are more likely to have enhanced performance, innovative thinking, flexibility, and openness. Those sound like traits of high performing employees to me.
I love what our city does to recognize employees for their work anniversaries. As a supervisor, I also recognize each of my direct report’s work anniversaries each year with a thank you note and a gift card for them to buy lunch at a local business. What does your organization do to appreciate employees for their service? If you are a supervisor, what do you do? If you are not a supervisor, how do you like to be appreciated at work? Let’s share some gratitude ideas and make them happen in our organization in 2023.