Early in my career, I was the director of human resources for a UK-based firm. Our new CEO, who I adored, was a recent implant from England and as expected, was combing through the books for areas to cut expenses. He came upon the line item for the turkey distribution in our manufacturing facility. He suggested we cancel the turkey distribution and use the money towards other more “valuable” benefits.
The news leaked to employees and once they heard the news, there was a complete mutiny and threats of unionization.I found myself explaining the symbolism of the turkey to our new CEO. It wasn’t about the money. It was the tradition. Each year, the former American CEO would line up with the executive committee and handout the turkeys and say THANK YOU by name to each employee. It was a great honor to go home to your family with the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving dinner. It showed we cared not just about the employee but the entire family.
I swore to stand by our new CEO’s side and quietly announce each employee as they approached to receive the turkey. The tradition remained intact and our facility maintained non-union status.
Each year at Thanksgiving, I reminisce about that story and its impact on my leadership philosophies. In this crazy, busy world, the holiday season reminds me to tip the daily scale of gratitude and purposely tell those around me thank you for a job well done. And don’t mess with anyone’s turkey!