The corporation I work for has three awards to recognize employees’ accomplishments, none of which I qualify for.
One is for journalists, and I am not a journalist. One is for people who work on specific products that we offer, and I work on none of those products. And one is for managers, and I am not a manager.
Which leaves me in the pool of employees who essentially work unrecognized, day after day, year after year. This would include people such as accountants, help desk representatives, or the people who make sure the toilets still flush.
However, there is one award we all qualify for: the “service award.” This is the “award” people get for sticking with the company for 10 years or more. It basically recognizes people for being unambitious and unable to be employed anywhere else. It rewards people for not being creative enough, or providing enough value, to be noticed. It rewards people for blind loyalty and doing the minimum required to not get fired.
The situation does not inspire me to achieve much. I was laid off once from this company and I fully expect that it could happen again. I know I’m expendable. This makes the “service award” less impressive than the others. (Full disclosure: even people who’ve won the above mentioned awards have been laid off.)
Which means that all the corporate-speak about teamwork, collaboration, and excellence ring hollow. If employees truly mattered, there would be more ways to recognize, more value placed on everyone’s work product (and not just the work product of the few). There would be a CEO who actually spoke to employees, not at them (we used to have one; he’s dead now).
Corporations are different than they used to be, and I don’t think it can be entirely blamed on the economy. My father ran a commercial operation for over 20 years in San Francisco and he knew the name of every one of his employees. This could still be done today if the CEO wanted it to, instead of wanting more salary and to please the shareholders. Or to achieve greatness. In other words, corporations are the people who compose them, more so than their stock ticker or SEC filing. It would be nice if they behaved that way.