I promise you this story is true.
Many years ago, when I was very young and you were even younger…
Work was not going well. Our recently launched product was a flop. Rumours of job cuts were swirling. Things were tense.
I was sat in work, headphones on, trying to drown out the sound of the open-plan office. Grinding through emails. When suddenly someone tapped me on the shoulder.
“Excuse me,” the vaguely familiar woman said, “do you work for Vodafone?”
I was wearing a Voda lanyard, typing into a Voda laptop, with great big Voda posters around me. Because we were both in Vodafone’s London office.
“Errr…. Yes? Why?” It wasn’t uncommon for angry customers to make their way to the office, sneak past security, and loudly grumble at marketing managers about their billing problems.
“You’re brilliant!” she gushed, “Wow! Everything you do is great! Your customers love you!”
I looked around the office, there were several strangers heaping out effusive praise. I rang building security – because I literally thought it was some kind of weird prank / invasion.
“Ah yes,” said the security guard, “you’re not the first person to call…”
I looked up. The half dozen strangers had formed a line and started doing a little song-and-dance about how lucky we were to work for Vodafone, and how our jobs improved people’s lives every day.
Work had paid for actors to come in and, literally, sing our praises.
I’d love to know the thought process behind this “initiative.”
If it had been actually senior managers emerging from their offices to walk the open-plan spaces – that would have been pretty nice. Sure, it might have been slightly hollow, but having the CxO stop by for a little chat and word of encouragement is a hell of a lot less synthetic than paying people to pretend that you’re doing well.
I don’t know how much it cost (thanks shareholders!) – but I’d much rather have the cash. Or a book token. Or a free lunch. Or anything material. It’s hard to fake a sandwich.
So, what’s the most misplaced gesture of support you’ve received from your employer?