The Value of Appreciation

An email from a recent audience member

Tom, we met and talked before one of your presentations recently.

If you remember, I described an incident I had experienced having to do with the whole issue of appreciating people, and you asked me to email you the details. Here they are.

In late March several years ago, I was sent from headquarters to one of our manufacturing facilities in the upper midwest after receiving notification that a union had filed a petition to organize a small group of employees at the site. I met with most of the employees on a Friday, but had to stay over on a Saturday morning to see the last person at 7:00 am. The weather was miserable; there was dirty snow all around, and I was frankly resentful that I was missing time with my wife and small children on a weekend. But I had a duty to fulfill, so I got up early on Saturday and ventured out into a winter blast to meet this employee. My mood was not brightened much when I arrived at the site and could not find an open door, or any of the local management to meet me. My thoughts were, "If I have to be here, shouldn't they be here too?".

I finally discovered a side entrance that was unlocked, and then wandered through darkened hallways until I found the conference room where we were to meet. The lady I was to meet was sitting there already, waiting for me. I sat down and began to introduce myself and explain the purpose of my visit. She politely, but curtly, interrupted me, and said the following words, which still ring in my ears today: "I know who you are, I know why you are here, and I can save us a bunch of time by telling you exactly what the problems are around here."

With that, she reached down into her purse, pulled out a 3 X 5 index card, and passed it across the table to me. The words were direct and, to me, profound. They serve even today as a constant reminder that my purpose is not "union busting," but is rather to help create work environments where no one feels the way this employee felt.

The card said:

"Twice I did well,
And that I heard never.
Once, I did ill,
And that I heard ever."

I was initially speechless in response. I remember thinking to myself, "How long has she had this card with her? Did she prepare it just for our meeting? Has she had it for some time? Has it been stuck on her refrigerator at home where she saw it every day and was reminded of how unappreciated she felt?"

All of these questions led me to the sobering realization that our company has a responsibility to our employees to provide a better environment than the one she was describing. After catching my breath and my thoughts, we ended up having a very engaging discussion that morning. The rest of the story is that the petition for union representation was eventually withdrawn, and we set about the task of directly addressing the areas of concern for that work group.

Today, if I get sidetracked or weary, I remember this incident and my spirits are lifted, enabling me to renew my resolve to make a difference in this world.

Tom , I hope you've enjoyed this little vignette of life and the "Human Condition", and can perhaps use it in some way to spread the word about why we are here on this earth.

Good Wishes,

A Fellow Traveller and Lover of Wisdom

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