It should come as a surprise to no one that I am an odd duck. But I can’t imagine I’m so unusual, just a different shade of unusual. For example, my work group was recently reassigned to a different team at work. There’s been some stress associated with the transition, but on the whole I’ve felt things will be okay. But what really boosted my morale? Office supplies. My new team has a bigger budget, and the first time I spoke with our group admin she told me to order whatever I wanted. So I took her up on it.
Our last team was on a tighter budget, and the feeling was that it would take an act of congress (perhaps a bad analogy, considering how good Congress is at spending money they don’t have) to get anything that wasn’t included in the basic supplies. There were many items I did without because they weren’t in the cabinet and I didn’t dare ask. They had these horrible pens that hurt my hand, so I bought my own and brought them to work.
So it was like Christmas all over again when the admin stopped by today to deliver my new mouse pad, scissors, tape dispenser, white board pens (fine tip), and a box of my favorite pens. To say I could have cried would be an overstatement, but my morale is certainly riding high today.
This isn’t the only thing that determines my satisfaction with a job, certainly, but it was like the first flowers of spring, so to speak, showing me that things are going to be better in our new department. It was a short term win while we wait to see what the long term is going to look like. I’m optimistic about that, too, as I see my new boss is responsive, decisive, organized, and willing to listen. In the long run, if this really is how she runs things, this will come to mean much, much more to me than a box of pens.
But the lesson, I think, is that each of us, while different, has basic needs we equate with “the company cares.” For me it’s office supplies, and the fact that I asked for something I felt was a touch indulgent and had it on my desk within two weeks. For someone else it might be a chance to pick assignments, a different cubicle, or free coffee in their favorite flavor. Everyone has something that feels to them like a perk, though it might not to most everyone else. A parking space next to the building wouldn’t do it for me—it would actually make me feel uncomfortable. But buy me a box of Uniball fine point black pens and suddenly I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dang it, people like me!
Good companies and managers seek to motivate their people. Great companies and managers find out what motivates each individual employee. If they’re willing to dig a little, I’ll bet every one of us has some relatively inexpensive thing or act that makes us feel we’re valued.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to go try out my new scissors.