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Why Work Anniversaries Still Matter

I was looking at a post by Paul Hebert’s i2i about service anniversary awards and it got me thinking about the inherent ridiculousness of the whole concept. Why are we giving awards for people sticking it out? “Oh hey Jimmy, you made it through another year. Here’s your bronze pin. After that, you can get your silver, gold and then platinum pins.” Don’t get too excited Jimmy. Those pins, watches, and plaques all meant something at some point.

Getting an anniversary pin or plaque feels like getting the perfect attendance award back in school. It’s an accomplishment, yes, but it is an odd one. One where you don’t know what is exactly wrong with the perfect attendance kid. Why did they feel the need to stick it out every mind numbing day of class? Did they really never get sick?

In my cynicism, I forgot something. Anniversaries can be good! I was letting some of that negativity in there.

Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated four years of marriage bliss. As every married person will tell you, everything has always gone perfect, there’s never been any problems and we have never ever fought about anything.

I kid. It hasn’t always been perfect but our anniversary always gives me an opportunity to appreciate both how far we’ve come and how far we can continue to go. It is the instant romance maker. Even if I procrastinated with planning this year, we had a great time because I was focused on reflection and our future together.

In what is probably obvious to others, if you have a good relationship with your career and your career partner (i.e. your workplace), anniversaries can be a wonderful time to celebrate another year of engaged employment. Is it directly aligned with a business result? No, but who cares. If you are managing your workforce well, being employed for another year is a great indirect business success and one that is worthy of your celebration.

If you are in a crappy relationship with an employer (or your spouse), an anniversary can be as empty of a gesture that can be made. And I imagine many of my Gen Y compatriots haven’t had the best jobs in the world yet so it is easy to become very cynical about anniversaries and the recognition awarded to them.

Let’s not recognize survivors, let’s recognize thrivers. And let’s be sure that the number of people with empty anniversaries is minimized while maximizing the ones we can celebrate another year of success with. Because that anniversary is a beautiful thing if done right.

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You Don’t Have To Blog To Rise Up

I know this is a crazy post.

I know my blog has certainly helped me rise up. Other’s blogs have helped them rise up. I am going to an unconference that is going to focus on HR people who are interested in blogging. Someone may ask me if they should start a blog.

In the past, my answer was an unhesitant yes. Of course you should. Why shouldn’t you? The real question is how do we get you going and exposed as quickly as possible.

Now? My answer depends on a number of factors. In some cases though, my answer is going to be no.

What gives?

I haven’t soured on blogging nor do I believe the space is crowded. On the contrary, I still think there is a lot of space out there for people to talk about business and talent. We’ve barely scratched the surface of possibilities. But I think there are also a lot of dead blogs out there and that sucks. It means someone put in a bunch of effort, got frustrated and left it behind.

That could have been prevented because while I don’t believe there is one way to blog, there are many ways to fail at blogging:

  1. You aren’t passionate about the subject — You want to use your new blog as a tool to rise up but you aren’t passionate about the subject. Reverse course matey! Go back and find your passion and then blog about that.
  2. You aren’t interested in improving your writing — Blogging has helped me improve my written communication skills immensely. Rarely do people come into blogging with that background. Are you willing to craft and recraft messages until you get used to it?
  3. You can’t write on a consistent schedule — This is a big one. I say writing once a week is the necessity. That’s 52 posts a year. I’ve averaged two posts a week for over three years. It honestly isn’t tough but if your schedule is rough and tumble, you’ll lose interest if you don’t post for a month.
  4. You can’t do the other things that make your blog great — Keeping up on what other people are doing in the context of what you write is as important as what you write. Making comments, networking with fellow bloggers, and pushing stuff out to your network? That’s part of successful blogging.

So If You Don’t Do Blogging…

You can rise up in different ways. People have this tendency to assume that the path they take is the best path for everyone but that simply isn’t the case. Even with blogging. Now I believe that if you have those four traits, anyone can learn how to blog and do it very well. Seriously. Anyone.

There are other ways to rise up though:

  • Through your company
  • Speaking and volunteering through local associations
  • Doing interesting things and getting press coverage
  • Doing guest blog posts
  • Using other social media tools effectively
  • Start consulting and advising (even pro bono)

I am just scratching the surface here. My biggest point: don’t let anyone tell you that you have to blog. Should you have a findable, online profile? Absolutely. You can build that through any number of resources though that doesn’t involve a blog.

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Stop Being Afraid Of Putting Information Into Customer’s Hands

My first job was at a fast food place. It was a local chain that was trying to go for this retro 60’s diner like atmosphere. So I had to wear a button down, white, short sleeve shirt (actually a snap down, white, short sleeve shirt) and a tie to work at a place that served greasy burgers and fries. Since this was high school, I chose the job because almost every one of my friends worked there. Since it was high school, I also made sure to do the least amount work possible while maintaining my job.

All good things had to come to the end and we parted ways (I quit without notice because they wouldn’t let me work with my ear piercing in, my first experience with dress code policies). Things have changed a bit in 11 years. What was once a beloved but tacky regional restaurant chain has become the fast food iteration of the “Eat Local” movement.

Burgerville (based in my hometown of Vancouver, WA) has become a powerhouse of the Northwest casual cuisine scene. From hipsters and hippies to cube dwellers and suburbanites, I’ve found few that really dislike the joint and even less that have never experienced it. Not to mention that they are an interesting case in business transparency.

Burgerville started off by naming suppliers of their products and opening both themselves and their partners to scrutiny. Guess what though? It wasn’t the end of the world. People felt better about what they were eating.

Now they’ve attracted attention for another bit of transparency: nutrition labeling based on what you order. Cabel’s Blog posted a copy of his receipt and it was picked up by A Hamburger Today (one of my favorite food blogs for obvious reasons).

So you can see that he not only ordered a halibut sandwich but that he removed tarter. And those sweet potato fries? Better in the fiber category but bad everywhere else in comparison to regular french fries.

While other companies put their nutrition information on weird parts of a website or in little pamphlets with tiny printing, Burgerville puts it right where it counts: in your face, before you eat it.

And yes, people who know me know that I am against mandatory laws about these sorts of things. But using labeling and transparency as a key differentiator in your marketing strategy? I really love it. Especially when none of your competitors can roll out anything close to this in a timely manner.

Put information into your customer’s hands, respect their intelligence and let their informed wants guide you to better products. How hard can it be if a regional burger chain is leading the way?

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Work Tip: Don’t Offer Copious BJs Over E-mail to the Person Taking Your Shift

It’s not a joke, it’s one of the first HR problems I had to deal with as a manager.

I was working as a manager in a student-run computer lab of a major university. We worked closely with a mixed group of classified employees and student staff. Since there were shifts between students and things always came up, we had an automated way of students requesting for people to take their shifts.

We basically had them send out a request to the listserv to be distributed to all staff regarding when their shift was available and whatever reasons they were looking to get it filled. One day as I was about to leave at 5:30, I get an e-mail that says:

To: listserv
From: “Matt”
Subject: Shift available

Thursday 3/31
5:00pm — 9:00pm
Building C

Reason: I have a big lab I have to do. Copious BJs to the person who takes this shift.

I froze. I re-read. I froze again.


I call Matt and tell him to come to the office right now. I call my IT guy and the other managers to have them come in. In between that time, I get e-mails from three people on my staff that can’t believe what they read. One of them is going to file a complaint with the Human Rights Department.

Thank God I don’t work for a university anymore.

Whenever Matt comes in, he is completely unapologetic. Whenever I tell him he is going to get fired, he gets defiant and starts asking me to cite what policies he has broken. I told him we work for a university that has a zero tolerance policy on sexually harassing words. This isn’t one of those things I could overlook, it’s something that we had to take care of right now.

After he leaves, I tell our IT lead to kill his account but he was going to go home first and do it later that night. That’s when I realized the advantages of having all the ducks in a row and pulling the cord before it goes down.

Matt sent an e-mail out about 45 minutes after our conversation. Whenever I received it, I was thinking that it was just sent to me. It wouldn’t be the first time, no doubt about it.

Then I read the message and I noticed the “To:” field said it was sent to the listserv. I again was shocked to what I saw. A diatribe by Matt regarding how “the man” (not making this up) had brought him down and that our corporate culture was an enemy of human rights.

It was laughable stuff, especially in sharp contrast to the note he had sent out not two hours earlier (not to mention the fact that we worked for a university). What floored me was that the e-mail was even sent. I called the IT guy at home and did what I knew how to do best. I asked a question:

“So did you turn off Matt’s access?”

“Of course I did. Why?”

“Have you checked your e-mail?”

“No.” click click click “Oh crap!”

“Way to go, now will you turn it off?”


So ended my optimism when it came to people leaving an organization.

Thanks to Matt (and some new experiences) I now take much greater precautions and expect the worst of every single termination I am a part of. Most of them go well but I don’t bet on it any more.

Originally published at on June 12, 2006.