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That Guy’s Tips for Corporate Success, #14 January 20, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Free Food!, Tips for Corporate Success.

When employees are free to organize as they please, they will usually do so more successfully than if management was involved.

Since CorporateSpeak is a 24-hour shop, we have employees working every day, including the Seven Major Holidays. Though the blog takes a break on those days, certain members of the manufacturing and content crews are hard at work.

I found an e-mail in CServer the day before Christmas that said:

All employees working Christmas, please bring a dish for the potluck. For information, see Frances Kim.

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user webg33k.

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user webg33k.

Having worked at CorporateSpeak for a few years, I can attest to the fact that employee potluck lunches tend to go well. Most people bring something, and everyone else buys something. I wasn’t working that day, but I probably would have made macaroni and cheese or something similarly-simple and similarly-easy-to-increase-the-size-of (about 25 people worked Christmas day). I have worked a few Major Holidays, and participated in potlucks, and have been quite pleased with the results.

Of course, when management gets involved, things tend to go south. Some examples:

  • Football Day At The Office: All employees could forgo their regular work attire to wear the gear of their favorite football team (or teams). There was a potluck lunch. One department, however, offered the option to just pay the secretary $5 to $10 so she could purchase enough chicken to serve the entire 250-or-so-person operation. I chose to go with that option because I didn’t have time to cook. There was relatively little interesting food — mostly sides — because everyone chose to just pay.
  • Chili Cookoff: I make a pretty good chili. When the Employee Relations Committee (contains two managers) announced there would be a chili cookoff, I spent the night before making crock-pot chili. Then I carried the crock-pot to work, set it up in the kitchen, and turned it on low about an hour before the official start time. Everyone was pleased with the chili, but only myself and one other person actually followed the directions (make chili or sandwiches). Everyone else just brought in whatever they felt like. The food was good, but there wasn’t much to eat except chili, store-bought sides, and store-bought dessert. Fortunately I also made a gigantic bowl of mashed potatoes to put under the chili.
  • Christmas Food Festival: For the past couple of years, there’s been a building-wide decorating competition and food festival. Many departments brought interesting dishes and it was possible to eat two full meals without difficulty — entrees, sides, and more. I made potato latkes, which went over very well and complemented the various things the other departments in my area brought in. But this year, the decorating competition was cancelled, and I think that took the wind out of the festival. There were only two foods that were not snacks or desserts, and I ended up having to go out to lunch to get anything that wasn’t 100% sugar or carbohydrates.

What have we learned? Simple: when you let the employees figure out what to do on their own, they not only are much nicer and friendlier among themselves (witness the people who bring in donuts or bagels out of the goodness of their hearts every now and then — I’ve done this from time to time), but tend to end up happier with the process. Once management gets involved, people either feel obligated to participate or so disgusted with the restrictions put on the process that they don’t bother at all.

Something to think about.

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[…] That Guy’s Tips for Corporate Success, #14 « corporatespeak […]

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