The Hallmark Effect

joe —  Sat 18-Dec-10 — 4 Comments
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celebrate marriage.pngDid you ever notice companies that stage an Employee Appreciation Week often have some of the most demotivated employees? I’ve never seen a formal study linking the two but in my short time here on earth there sure seems to be a lot of supporting evidence.

I noticed this on Nov. 9th, the anniversary of the day my wife changed my life. This day isn’t really any different from any other day of the year except that we both take a few minutes to recall a very special moment 14 years ago. There are no gifts, there are no overt expressions of undying love – just another day with a simple “Happy Anniversary” to demonstrate that we do remember and appreciate what happened.

I know that many are thinking “What a lazy and cheap bum – he found a way of getting out of buying an anniversary present or expensive dinner. His wife must be one saintly woman for putting up with that.” She is, but actually we both wanted this.

We used to exchange gifts and lavish dinners but soon discovered that they weren’t very special. They felt like 10-20 other times this past year. It is not uncommon for either of us on some seemingly random day to walk into the house with a gift for no reason. Seriously – no reason. We don’t buy anniversary cards – we write quick love notes when the moment strikes. How romantic is a cold, rainy Tuesday night dinner in November when tonight is 75 degrees outside with a light breeze and the kids are having a sleepover with their friends? We do it as we feel it. Love happens when love happens – it’s not always on November 9th.

It is in our DNA to do when we feel. It’s why we eat when we are hungry and laugh when we are amused. Most don’t realize it because many years ago Hallmark discovered they could make a killing by making one day rise above the rest and force every married man alive to buy some sappy card that uses someone else’s words to replace that which he truly feels.

FOrgot Anniversary.pngThe problem isn’t that there is one day set aside to rise above the rest – it’s when this one day becomes a replacement for the other 364 days. Imagine if Hallmark made June 13th National Laughter Day. Would we wait until June 13th to laugh at a joke heard in May? Of course not. Would we go out of our way to laugh harder on June 13th than any other day? That would be odd as laughter is such a natural response. Does that mean that love and appreciation aren’t?

I dislike Valentine’s Day for the very same reason. Beth and I refer to it as “amateur night”. Did you know that the two biggest times for romantic breakups are the week before Valentine’s Day and Christmas? There is a built up pressure on these days that is not natural. Don’t even get me started about Bosses Day, Admins Day or even Grandparents Day.

So too is Employee Appreciation Week. If a company has to set aside a special week every year to appreciate employees what does that mean for the other 51? Companies that make a big deal about a special week likely don’t have the DNA to support it every day.

That which is in our nature should be expressed at natural times – no matter what Hallmark or your HR department say.

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  • Lia Schiza

    Regarding anniversaries, Valentine’s, etc., we don’t even have the discipline to wait LOL!

    Anyway, you’re touching on a bigger topic here. Many people wait once a year to praise their employees with a standard piece of paper from HR. It gave me such a satisfaction to see my employee’s face light up when I said “hey u worked so hard on this, take a day off! ” I want people to know how much they’re appreciated for putting 110% in the 340 something days in a year, instead of waiting for a piece of paper…

  • http://reora.com Paul

    Another great post, Joe. Much forced (or marketing-driven) gift giving or ‘celebrations’ end up being pretty hollow, including Christmas gifts. I like giving gifts when it hits me that I’ve realized or stumbled across something I feel sure the other person will really like or love.

    Give because you want to, not because you have to.

    I also have a big problem with corporations coercing their employees to participate in any charity because that corporation may be putting those very same employees in conflict and to have to cut back on work they do privately for other worthy causes. I don’t think it’s any of the corporation’s business, and it seems to me often more intended to help a corporation’s ‘image’ or bolster someone’s ego.

    • http://thestrandedstarfish.com Joe Kleinwaechter

      With you on that one Paul. I hated it when a former employer did exactly that. Then they wanted me to get the charities I serve to be on their master list so that I could then donate to them through the company (in other words allowing them to say they had some part in that process). I was even more amazed when there was an unwritten expectation of executives contributing a certain percentage. Sorry United Way or any other corporate sponsored charity – your tactics are suspect and leave them open to corruption. My dollars will go to those that don’t use these types of influence.

  • Craigconst

    Awesome, Joe!   You make everyday special for us.