Even in Tough Times, Employees Deserve a Show of Appreciation

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Dec 15, 2014

Last Summer, I followed the Market Basket grocery store saga religiously. I was captivated by the story of non-unionized employees willing to risk their livelihood to keep their CEO. (Here are posts about the walkout and the outcome.)

After a six-week employee walkout and customer boycott, it’s fairly safe assumption the company took a pretty big financial hit. Employees were rightly concerned that years-long traditions around holiday bonuses might not materialize.

Then news broke last week that all associates would indeed receive their deserved bonuses.

A commitment to the employee first

A local paper, The Lowell Sun, reported:

In another sign of a return to normalcy at Market Basket, the company paid out bonuses to employees this week that match or exceed what the chain has awarded in past years. The Christmas and customer-service bonus checks are the first to be handed out since Arthur T. Demoulas returned to running the company in late August.

If we do a good job on our customers and they reward us by shopping with us, we share in the benefit we receive,’ said Dave McLean, Market Basket’s assistant director of operations.”

That’s a pretty significant payout, but the commitment to the employee first is the real message that rings through this story.

The Boston CBS news station shared a personal perspective from one employee, Jen Gelvez, who works in the Reading, MA, store office. Ms. Gelvez’s perspective is a brilliant summary of the two elements we must always remember when bonuses are given.

The money matters…

I wasn’t too sure with what was going on in the summer, with the company going into debt,’ Gelvez explains. ‘I didn’t expect [a Christmas bonus] at all. I was just thankful to have a job.’

But for the divorced mother of two girls, that bonus is Christmas. So when her store manager showed up Tuesday morning bearing bonus checks from Mr. Demoulas, Gelvez almost couldn’t believe it. “To actually receive a Christmas bonus this year was amazing,” she said.”

This is always something to keep in mind with a bonus plan. People come to expect them over time. It’s becomes tradition and money that people count on as planned income.

It’s great Market Basket was able to continue the tradition this year, but even more so for the sake of the tradition itself.

…but heartfelt appreciation matters more

‘Mr. Demoulas writes a beautiful letter every year that each employee gets,’ Gelvez said. ‘I almost cried when I read it this year.’

Part of that letter reads: ‘The only way our company is able to provide these most-deserved bonus checks is because you, your fellow associates, and our customers had the courage to preserve and protect the culture of this company.’

Gelvez tears up when she thinks about how lucky she is to work at Market Basket. For her boss, she says only: ‘I just want to thank him. For everything that he did. That’s all.’ ”

The REAL message to employees

That’s the real message of the bonus — “We couldn’t have done it or continue to do it without you.” That’s what employees most need to know and want to hear – my work matters to the company’s success, to my colleagues, and to my boss.

That’s the real “bonus.”

What kind of special recognition does your company offer at the holidays?

This was originally published on the Recognize This! blog.

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