Monday, January 14, 2013

Why the "everybody gets a trophy" society leaves you feeling like a failure

There's an incident that occurred in my dad's store that sticks out in my mind as both funny and prophetic. One day a woman came in with a small child, and while I was slicing cold cuts her little darling started to climb into the dairy case. My dad, who didn't subscribe to the customer is always right theory, said, "Miss, please get your son out of the cooler."

The woman was aghast. "He's just expressing himself. I don't want to damage his self-esteem."

My dad. "If you don't get him out of the cooler he'll see some damaged self esteem."

Woman grabs kid and leaves. This may have been more than 30 years ago, but it was a precursor to the theory that everybody gets a trophy.

Flash forward to a seminar I attended in 2001 at the Kneeland project in Austin, Texas. Named for Carole Kneeland, the late news director whose quote sits on the top of this blog. At one point we took a tour of her old station and saw a thing called a "brag board" which was filled with compliments. The theory being that management should share good feedback with the staff, and make compliments public. Great idea, and should be great for morale.

So I implemented this idea, putting up a white board and occasionally writing stuff like "great package" or "excellent video" and adding the name of the person responsible. People liked getting public displays of praise.

Or so I thought. Not having any kids, I'd forgotten that everyone is supposed to get a trophy.

You guessed it. Someone who didn't get one complained. Didn't get a public compliment. Boo-hoo. Long story short, I erased the damn thing and used it for newsroom memos. (This was filed under "no good deed shall go unpunished.")

Flash forward to present day. The most common complaint I hear is one I made when I was a reporter. "I never get any feedback." Back then it meant you were doing okay, and it pretty much means the same thing now. But in many cases, the young generation has been so conditioned to get a ribbon just for participating that when said ribbon isn't presented with fanfare, the result is a feeling of failure.

Or this: "Management sorta likes me but doesn't love me." You want that Sally Field moment at the Academy Awards. "You like me! You really like me!" (Look it up.) And you want it everyday.

A few points:

-News Directors love people they can depend on who aren't a problem. But sometimes they take these people for granted and forget to let them know they're appreciated. It's just like high school; the good students get the good grades while the students who don't behave in class waste the teacher's time. NDs often spend so much time dealing with the staff's problem children that there's nothing left for the good people.

-Many managers are socially awkward and simply don't know how to say thank you.

-Many managers are minions of the devil.

-This is the real world. You get a paycheck. That's your ribbon for participating. You also have a future with a goal. That's the trophy you want. And, sorry to say, not everyone gets one.


1 comment:

Heycameraman said...

I publicly acknowledge this is an awesome post. :)