The other day I talked to a restaurant manager friend of mine. I noticed that he kept a plaque on his desk that these high school students he used to teach gave him in recognition of his awesomeness. It reminded me of this really odd awards ceremony I went to one time.
Way back when, at a manager meeting at Outback, I posited the idea of a recognition meeting/award ceremony as a low cost way of recognizing and motivating the staff. This kind of suggestion was nothing new coming from me. I had originally requested that my business cards they had printed up for me list my job title as ‘Levity Coordinator’ because I was always trying to make it a fun place to work. But nobody at home office had any idea what the hell that was (Mostly because it was just some shit I made up but it at least sounds like a fun job, right?). I was also the dumbass who suggested that instead of having just one key manager at our store (me at the time), that we should cross train some folks and have a whole army of keys.
Both of those ideas were well-received and well-implemented. One of them was at least. The GM really liked the awards ceremony idea even though he went with calling it something banal like ‘The Outbacker Awards’ instead of what I first suggested, ‘The Auscars.’ Even though I wasn’t aware we had the AwFuckIt Budget for it, he even decided to have nice little plaque trophies made instead of the framed certificates I’d had in mind.
Since the idea was to give out a lot of awards I didn’t think too much about who would be getting what. I figured the half dozen keys, the handful of trainers, the people who had been there a while and the bartenders would all stand a good chance of getting a plaque. And I was right.
Truth be told I secretly hoped I would be getting a super cool kind of award for ‘Most Hooley-Dooley Outbacker’ or something cheesy and sweet like that. I had never before gotten any sort of award like employee of the month or anything like that. I was runner up on several occasions at a few different jobs but for some reason any sort of public recognition for a job well done had always eluded me. There was that one time when there was talk of making me employee of the month at the OB but since I was on the committee that decided it I felt it would be a heinous breach of propriety if I gave it to myself. That kinda sucked for me because I really wouldn’t have minded somebody somewhere saying ‘Hey, You Kick Ass! We appreciate your years of experience here at this company. And your hard work. And dedication. And this little plaque is proof of it.’
My point in adding these details is not to make you think I am a desperate attention seeker who needs the approval of others in order to function. I mean, I am an attention seeker. I’m just not desperate. I didn’t stay up late at night dreaming of winning the coveted Outback Of The Month award. But to be honest-no matter shallow or stupid it might have been-I was kinda expecting to get an award at this awards ceremony.
In addition to being one of the few people that had opened the restaurant and were still there, as well as being of the the trainers, and as well as being the oldest key manager, I had been told several times by the GM and the asshole new sheriff AM that I needed to be at that meeting.
As in ‘Hey are you going [to the meeting]?’
‘Yeah, I sure will.’ It was kinda my idea after all. Of course I would be there.
‘Okay just make sure you’re going to be there.’
This exchange happened four or five times in the week leading up to it, almost verbatim each time. I sensed there was some great practical joke going on, like one of them was going to take a shit on my windshield or something while I was at this thing. Either that or they had some special award they were going to give me for being so hooley dooley. Had to be the Hooley Dooley Award though. Had to be.
So the day of the First (and last) Annual Outbacker Awards arrives. Since it was basically just an all employee meeting, everybody that worked there was crowded into one side of the dining room.
I sat at my table eagerly anticipating finally getting an award for something. I applauded with genuine enthusiasm as my friends and colleagues received their wood and etched metal attaboys for various categories. I applauded when each group of employees that I belonged to got awards.
I clapped as every single member of the staff that had opened the place and was still working there individually got a plaque. Every one but me. That’s okay I thought. I’ll get mine later.
I clapped as every single trainer got handed a plaque with their name on it. Every one but me. That’s okay I thought. I’ll probably get one later.
Then towards the end of the show, after sixty to eighty percent of the staff had gotten a plaque, I clapped as every single key manager each got their awards. Again, every one but me. Wow that’s odd. I really thought I would get one with all the other keys. I guess they’re saving mine for last I thought. They must really be planning a special way of showing me how much they valued me as an employee.
Then the show was over.
I still clapped, albeit with noticeably less spirit. Now people please don’t think that I’m filled with bitterness because I never got a stupid award from my place of employment. I am, however, filled with an abundance of What The Fudge when I think about all the times the managers personally insisted that I be there. It was kinda like they threw a party just to publicly say ‘Fuck You’ to me.
And I wasn’t the only one who felt painfully awkward because of the absence of recognition for one of the most prominent members of the staff. I had trained a lot of the people that had gotten plaques that day and they, too, felt like it was an egregious oversight not to give me one as well. What was supposed to be a light-hearted and fun way to make everybody feel appreciated wound up leaving a bitter and uncomfortable taste in a lot of people’s mouths. Way to go, Outback Management! Yet another example of the childishness and shittiness that people are capable of when they have zero accountability. But then again what do expect from people that cancel your health insurance while you’re trying to recover from tumor removal surgery and give you in its place a leather jacket with the OB logo on it?
Again, the purpose of this post isn’t to cry Oh Poor Me. I’ve already got plenty of those. I just want to recount another effed-up tall restaurant tale that happens to be 100% true. If I hadn’t been a prominent member of the crew or if I just sucked at my job or if the kids in charge of the award selection hadn’t insisted that I be there so many times, I would think nothing more of it. But the circumstances of it and the way it went down just made me think Oh. Okay. I get it. But who looks like the bigger asshole here? I never spoke of it again after that until I saw my friend’s plaque the other day.
From what I later saw with my own eyes and from what a lot of people told me, many of those plaques wound up in the garbage. Though I appreciated the sentiment I thought they should keep them. They earned them, even if ‘I’ apparently didn’t.
Managers, please treat your employees with . . .
Dignity and Respect
Me, The JerBear