Schrute Bucks and Stanley Nickels

During the brief moment that Dwight Schrute held the position of Dunder-Mifflin Manager of the Scranton branch on TV’s The Office, he came up with the idea of awarding employees Schrute bucks anytime they did anything to please him. Almost immediately, he ran into problems. It seemed that no one wanted a Schrute Buck. Stanley rebuffed Dwight’s offer of a Schrute Buck during a brief exchange:

Dwight:    Wh…don’t you wanna earn Schrute Bucks?

Stanley:    No. In fact, I’ll give you a billion Stanley Nickels if you never talk to me again.

Dwight:    What’s the ratio of Stanley Nickels to Schrute Bucks?

Stanley:    The same as the ratio of unicorns to leprechauns.

Some bosses don’t get it. They throw Schrute Bucks or Stanley Nickels at employees like a fistful of Scooby Snacks, a transparent attempt to motivate employees that they haven’t taken the time to get to know.

Here are some of the favorite things I’ve heard bosses giving their employees. My comments appear in bold in case your visually impaired

  • A company-logoed Champaign glass. The only thing more pathetic than drinking alone is seeing my company logo appear through Champaign bubbles while I drink alone;
  • Movie passes. I work here. You pay me money for that work. I can convert my money into many things…including my own movie tickets;
  • A cheap, plastic telescope that reads: LOOKING TO THE FUTURE. If the future is farther away than my keyboard, the future is obscure indeed. And the eye piece gave me a rash;
  • An expensive, crystal Christmas ornament. No, this did not bring out the PC in me, although I saw some eye rolls from my Jewish, Muslim, and Wiccan colleagues. It’s just that I can’t put a hundred dollar ornament on my $30 tree without feeling odd;
  • A cobalt-blue coffee mug that states: YOU’RE A STAR! Which you’d have a great view of from heaven because, and I’m not making this up, the China-made cups had a sticker on the bottom that said, “Contains lead. Not suitable for drinking.” I give up. Is it a paperweight?; and
  • A re-gifted box of gourmet chocolates to a department that had done a great job. Three of the five women were on Weight Watchers; the other two were diabetics.

If employees don’t want Schrute Bucks, and they don’t really appreciate the trinkets that pile up on their desks, does that mean they can’t be motivated? Certainly not. How about money? Money is a great way to say, “I think you’re pretty neat.” So why not just pay employees more to make them happy?

A women I work with told me that last year she got an 11% pay increase, this during a time of corporate downsizing and cost reductions. I told her she deserved it, and that it was great that she had been recognized. She saw things differently:

They know that I’m miserable. I’m doing the work of three people, and I told my boss that I was applying elsewhere. This raise isn’t about ‘Oh, thanks. You’re great. I love you!’ It’s their way of trying to keep me here so I can do the work of all of the people they got rid of. They threw money at me, and I’m not saying no to that. But yes, I’m still very much looking for another job.

What do employees want? It’s not that hard to figure out. The employee-employer relationship is sort of like a marriage. Both require deep, abiding mutual respect. They require face-time and communication. They grow best when they are fed regularly, not just on anniversaries and birthdays. They thrive on feedback, certainly, but also praise. And more important than being given a coffee mug or wilted flowers, they ask to be heard and to be encouraged.

So bosses, just try to get to know what your employees like. Remember their names. Smile. Be friendly. Don’t throw money at your employees as a substitute for building a relationship with them. And don’t clean out your desk drawer and send your employees your unwanted crap.

But if you have any antibiotic cream, send it my way. The rash around my eye still flares up from the last gift you gave me…

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