Last week at Hewlett-Packard, a managers-only e-mail went out—the kind of memo that always baffles me.
"Tips for virtual recognition and celebration," the memo offers. A real problem, especially for a company like H-P, with many remote employees and contractors. The memo's introduction describes the problem well:
All right H-P HR, fire away with your ideas for non-monetary recognition:
• When you call to recognize an employee’s accomplishment, do so during the workday in their time zone.
• Find ways to “shake hands” virtually—use more words of praise than you might in person. Use your voice to “smile,” laugh to show you are smiling.
So far so good, as are some more ideas for warming up remote team meetings and using technology to bring far-flung workers closer.
But then the directive inevitably commands managers to "have fun" with their remote employees. Here's how:
• Party a la PowerPoint—ask each person to create one party scene slide. Include pictures, music, animation, sound effects. Consolidate the slides and share a virtual celebration. Great for celebrating milestones.
• Ask team members to share a photo of themselves, apply some image editing and voila! You create a virtual team photo to send to all!
Help me understand: How do grown people give such advice to other grown people? And how do the receivers of such advice, who presumably have enough reliable horse sense to be entrusted with management roles, actually inflict these ideas upon their charges? (And you know they do!) And how do the victims—and I've been floored again and again by employees' willingness to submit unblinkingly to the most humiliating team-building exercises—come away from their corporate days with enough dignity required to go home and look their children in the eye?
My questions aren't rhetorical.
I mean it: How?