Making the Personal Impersonal

Has the business world become too automated, too impersonal?  How does the notion of calling employees human capital affect how we treat those that work for us?  Have we gone too far?  Let me know what you think.

Making the Personal Impersonal.


Making the Personal Impersonal


As a manager, one of my favorite days of the week is payday.  When payday rolls around people always seem to be in a good mood.  They have some money in their bank account or their pockets and usually have plans to have some fun with that money – maybe a night out with the boys, a date, or a trip with the family.  Some people may just need the money to pay bills.  Either way, making money is why we work.  And payday is something we all look forward to.

I know when I worked for my Dad, I always looked forward to getting that paycheck on Friday.  I would go to the bank and deposit most of it in my savings account and keep a little bit for something fun like a night out with my friends or a date.  Getting the paycheck at the end of the week was the reward for a job well done.  I remember going to the office on those Fridays and either the office manager or my Dad would hand out the paychecks to myself and the other workers, and he would say two very important words to all of us – “Thank you.”  It was his way of showing his appreciation for all of our hard work that week, and we all appreciated it.  It was a simple gesture that made a great impact.

When I became a manager of lots of people (about 70 or so) at the ripe old age of 27 years old, I looked forward to getting that bag filled with pay stubs for the folks that worked for me each week.  I would sit down and sort them by shift and then put them away for safe-keeping.  When Thursday and Friday rolled around, I would walk around the plant and try to personally deliver the pay stubs to everyone that worked for me.  My goal in doing this was to make sure that I personally thanked everyone for all of their hard work and efforts that week.  I felt it was important to make that personal connection just like my Dad did when I worked for him.  I even did this, at times, when I managed managers.

So, when I found out that my company was moving to an automated system for accessing pay stubs, I was not happy to say the least.  Although, I no longer hand out the pay stubs, the managers that work for me still do, and some of them take that time to thank the people that work for them.  It’s a good way of making sure managers and hourly associates interact each week in a positive way.  Getting paid is a good thing, right?  Now the avenue for making that happen is gone – all in the name of saving money.

Printing pay stubs each week and separating for delivery to the plant costs money – more than we all realize.  But how does the cost of printing and sorting these pay stubs compare with the cost of making something that should be personal seem so impersonal?  I realize not everyone cares about getting a pay stub from their boss each week.  The money is already in the bank so why do they need this piece of paper?  But the majority of people that I’ve dealt with through the years seem to appreciate it.  That 30 seconds of one-on-one interaction makes a difference.  Now it’s gone.  Now the associates have been given a login and a password so that they can access their pay stub on a computer.  Is the computer programmed to say “Thank you for a great week”?  I don’t think so.  Is the computer going to listen to the concerns that the associate wants to share while he/she has the full attention of that manager for the moment?  Nope.  The human interaction has been replaced with the computer.

What does this say about society today?  Kids sit in rooms together and text each other instead of talking.  People I work with sit in rooms and send instant messages to one another instead of communicating verbally.  I interview young men and women for management positions that can barely carry on a conversation, but they send wonderful thank you e-mails.  The notion of real human interaction is disappearing.  But why does it have to be this way?  Why does the need for automation and efficiency supercede the benefit of building relationships?  Is the almighty dollar the root cause of these changes in our behaviors?  I’m really starting to think so.  Employees are referred to in some organizations as human capital.  I don’t refer to my family as human capital.  I don’t think my wife would appreciate being treated like an asset instead of a person.

So, how do we solve this problem?  How do we find other ways or opportunities to say “thank you” for that job well done without making it seem awkward or forced?  How do I teach those that work for me that this is important enough that they need to set aside time to do this each week or before a group goes off shift?  Showing sincere appreciation for someone’s efforts sends a powerful message.  It not only shows the person that you care about how they perform while they are at work, but it also shows that you care about them as a person.  Those two simple words make a world of difference – especially if someone isn’t feeling appreciated.  Hearing those two words after someone has had a rough week can really lift a person up.  I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve been told that it has an impact by the person I’ve thanked.

It’s called building social capital.  Working collectively and in a trusting environment helps build bonds and bridges across different groups.  This concept has been studied by sociologists and psychologists since the start of the Industrial Revolution.  So, it has been around for centuries, and it appears to have worked.  How do you think companies became successful?  Different groups of people from all walks of life working together to make something happen.  That’s how.

Ultimately, I believe this change will have an unanticipated negative impact on the morale of the associates on my team – both management and hourly.  Building relationsships and trust is critical to maintaining good morale in an organization.  Numerous studies have shown that a happy employee is a productive employee.  If we keep doing away with what I call the weekly “rituals”, then finding ways to build relationships in a natural setting or through normal interaction, like handing out a pay stub, are going to be harder to come by.  There are certain “rituals” that need to be carried-on – no matter the monetary cost because the underlying cost of not doing it may be more costly in the future.

I’ll let you know how it works out.  Until then, I will continue to find ways to say those two simple words to the folks that work for me.

I hope that you do too.


Introducing….The Worst Daddy Ever

Championship Belt


Good evening ladies and gentleman and welcome to the Vereen house!  Tonight, we have a highly anticipated match-up involving two strong-minded competitors that are eager to impose their will on one another until the other caves in.  Who will win this battle and come out on top?  Let’s introduce the competitors and let you decide for yourselves.

In this corner, we have a beautiful young lady – a Tween – who stands about 4’7″ tall and weighs in at close to 70 lbs soaking wet.  She has beautiful blonde hair and lovely hazel eyes.  But watch out, don’t let the looks fool you!  She’s out to win tonight.  This newly minted 10-year-old wants to get her way and will do anything or say anything to get it!

And in this corner, we have the Daddy!  He’s a man of principle.  He believes his kids should abide by rules and do things the right way!  He only wants the best for his girls!  He expects them to do well in school and in life!  He expects them to eat all of their peas and to smile while they do it!  This almost 38-year-old won’t let a little 10-year-old girl stop him from maintaining a calm and reasonably orderly household!

On Tuesday night, Carrie and I managed to get the girls to bed at a decent time.  It had been a pretty long day.  Early to work and school.  A very long day at work for me.  A long day of testing at school for Lydia.  Soccer practice for Ansley and me (I’m one of the coaches – that will be another blog topic).  Dinner.  Baths.  Stories.  Bed.  Suddenly Lydia remembered that she had some reading to do for school the next day.  I said that was fine, but she needed to have the lights out by 9:00.  She gave me the standard “yes, sir” and kept reading.

9:30 – I head upstairs to shower.  I actually ran around with the girls at soccer practice and got a little sweaty.  Clarissa said that I smelled bad.  That’s bad when your youngest daughter tells you that you stink.  As I went up the stairs, I saw a light on – Lydia’s light.  She’s not in bed.   I’m a little discouraged by this.  I look in the room, and Lydia has decided that it’s time for arts and crafts at 9:30 at night.

At that point, it’s all down hill from there.  I tell Lydia to get into bed.  It’s past her bedtime.  She snaps back with the proverbial phrase that all kids use – I didn’t know what time it was – as she looks at her clock and keeps working on her arts and crafts.  I tell her again to get in bed.  She mumbles something back.  I turn out the light.  She says something about needing to see so she can get in bed.  I turn on her small lamp and remind her that 9:00 was the bedtime.  She says something about needing noise to be able to sleep.  She wants to listen to a book on CD.  I tell her no because she’s normally still up at 11:00 listening to books on CD, and she has a test tomorrow.  She keeps pressing.

The tension grows.  Lydia argues that she can’t sleep without the noise.  I tell her that’s too bad, and she’ll lose soccer practice if she keeps it up.  She gets hysterical – the tears start to flow.  She’ll never get to sleep.  She has to have the noise!  I tell her that’s too bad again and leave to get in the shower.  She’s mad now.  She starts to say some things she’ll regret later.  She can be pretty dramatic.  At this point, I have now ascended or descended to the point of most hated Daddy!  I’m in the bathroom now.  The water is running.  She’s yelling through the wall at this point.  And then she says it.  The words that cut a Daddy the most….


She’s 10 years old.  I try not to take it too personally.  It might hurt more when she says it when she’s 16 because she WILL say it again.  It’s inevitable.  She won’t get her way, and it will be my fault or her mother’s fault.  Carrie has held the title of Worst Mommy Ever a couple of times over the past year or so.  As a matter of fact, she was awarded the title on Monday afternoon.  Now it’s my turn.

Carrie and I believe that our children should live by rules and have some level of responsibility that is commensurate with their age.  This means doing well in school, keeping their rooms clean, eating their fruits and vegetables, going to bed at a decent hour, and listening to their elders.  This is how Carrie and I were raised.

Did we mess up?  Sure.

I remember sitting at the table for hours because I wouldn’t eat my dinner.  But in the end, I usually ate it.  And it was cold and not very good at that point.  I remember getting spanked for talking back or doing something I wasn’t supposed to.  It didn’t make me hate my parents.  I’m sure I called them the “worst ever,” but I didn’t mean it.  I respected my parents and so did my brothers.  We knew they were in charge even if we didn’t always agree.  We were punished at times.  I remember losing my bike, my TV, and other privileges.  If you did the crime, you had to do the time.

After I got out of the shower and got ready for bed, I checked on Lydia.  She was already asleep.  I wanted to talk with her.  She’s a surprisingly a good listener when she’s calm.  I covered her with her blanket and brushed her hair out of her face.  They’re so much sweeter when they are asleep.  Even though she’s 10 going on 21, she’s still my little girl for now.

And for a night, I held the title of Worst Daddy Ever.  It’s a title that I will gladly hold if it helps makes a difference later on in her life!


TV Time: Learning Life’s Lessons from The Brady Bunch

How are hard is it for you to find shows that your family can watch together?  Can TV of today learn some lessons from shows of the past?  Read and find out.

TV Time: Learning Life’s Lessons from The Brady Bunch.


TV Time: Learning Life’s Lessons from The Brady Bunch


Once upon a time, watching television as a family was much easier than it is today.  Today, we have to screen TV shows for foul language, inappropriate subject matter, and generally poor entertainment value.  Channels like Nickelodeon and Disney promote shows that portray kids in such a way that does not translate well to real life.  Parents are either portrayed as total “screwballs” or are totally non-existent in the life of the kids on the show.  Many of these shows attempt to teach valuable life lessons about the importance of treating others with respect or befriending a new kid at school, but the context in which these situations are acted out normally does not correlate well with what a kid experiences each day.  Shows like iCarly, Hannah Montana, Shake it Up, and Jessie are prime examples of these types of shows.

You have to be careful with cartoons too.  Gone are the days of Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes.  They’ve been replaced by Spongebob and many others.  Even a cartoon for young children like Max and Ruby could be deemed as somewhat questionable.  Has anyone ever seen an episode that shows their bunny rabbit parents?  Is Ruby really old enough to be the primary caregiver for her younger brother, Max?  We see their grandmother from time to time, but we never see their parents!  How can a girl barely old enough to sell Bunny Scout cookies be expected to take care of her toddler age brother?  Only in cartoon land – I guess.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Max and Ruby.  It’s hilarious.  I love watching it with my youngest daughter, Clarissa.  Max is always creating mischief, and Ruby is always trying to do something productive despite Max’s constant attempts to sabotage her efforts.  At the end of each episode Max’s mischief always seems to have a positive impact on what Ruby is trying to accomplish even though she always tries her best not to let that happen.  And as always, there is a lesson that is learned.

TV in general has become more vulgar over the years.  As the rules have changed so has the subject matter.  Drugs, sex, violence, and reality TV – that’s what sells today.  Older shows revealed subtle hints about sexual relationships between characters.  Newer shows make it the main topic in almost every episode.  Even shows on ABC Family have become racier than those shown in years past.  Teenage soap operas fill the primetime hours instead of the family-oriented shows of the past.  And don’t get me started on commercials.  How many commercials do we need to see about male enhancement and womens’ contraceptives in a day?  They even show them during Harry Potter movie marathons on ABC Family.  Good luck explaining that one to your 8 year old.  Or is 8 the new standard age to have “the talk?”

Tonight, my wife and I found reruns of The Brady Bunch on the Hallmark Channel and watched them with our 3 girls.  It was wonderful.  It was the first time my kids have watched The Brady Bunch.  We didn’t even know it was still on TV.  The nice thing about the evening was that we didn’t have to worry about crude humor or inappropriate subject matter.  It was TV innocence at its best.  Tonight’s episodes showed the Brady’s (and Alice of course) as they took their family vacation to the Grand Canyon.  Along the way, they experience adventures in a ghost town where a gold prospector locks them up in the old jail because he’s worried about them staking a claim to his newly found gold.  He steals their car and all of their camping gear.  The Brady’s eventually escape from the jail, and the man eventually returns with their car as well as a document giving them 10% of the value of his claim.  Instead of calling the police or filing a lawsuit, the Brady’s forgive the man, tell them to keep his gold, and continue on with their trip.

I remember watching these episodes after school on TBS when I was growing up.  I would come home from school and watch a couple of shows before starting my homework.  Leave it to Beaver was one of my favorites.  I remember watching Andy Griffith reruns with my Mom and Dad as well as other shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family.  All of these shows not only entertained us, but they taught us a lot of life lessons.  Shows like the Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver taught about the value of right and wrong as well as the importance of family and friendship.  Characters on these older shows got in trouble for doing bad things.  Andy was always trying to teach Opie to do the right thing.  New shows seem to glorify the goofball or the character that causes problems – Samantha Puckett anyone (iCarly reference)?  What kind of image does does that send our children?

I’m only 37, but a great deal has changed in the last 25 years or so.  Racier shows used to come on after nine ‘o clock.  Now they are on starting at 8.  And with so many channels showing reruns of current sitcoms, the opportunity to find age appropriate programming has become that much more challenging.  I’m definitely not a stick in the mud.  I enjoy lots of shows on TV today, but I don’t enjoy watching them with my children.  If they are in the room, I constantly find myself hitting the mute button or changing the channel so I don’t expose them to something I don’t think they’re ready to hear.  For example, a show like The Big Bang Theory is truly funny, and I would love to be able to watch it with my 10 year old daughter, but the crude jokes and subject matter, at times, make that almost impossible.  Reality shows are even worse.  Has anyone watched Welcome to Myrtle Manor?  The day of the “family sitcom” is dead.  It’s been replaced with the “unfamily” sitcom, and I don’t think the “family” version will ever be back.

At the end of the last Brady Bunch episode of the evening, the Brady’s help a young Indian boy who wanted to run away from home make the decision to return to his village.  Earlier in the episode, Bobby and Cindy meet the young boy while exploring the Grand Canyon.  They try to follow the boy but eventually get lost.  The boy helps them get back to their camp.  In exchange, Cindy and Bobby agree to bring the Indian boy some food.  When Bobby and Cindy sneak out to take the boy food, they are eventually caught by Peter and Greg who try to help them get back to camp before their parents find out.  In the end, they all get caught, but Mr. Brady doesn’t yell or scream at them.  Instead, he sees they are trying to help someone, and he takes it a step further.  He shows them the importance of helping others make the right decision.  He helps reunite the boy with his family.  To me, this is doing the right thing, and it sends the right message to the viewer – especially younger viewers.

What do you think?