October 5, 2023
Among my fondest memories at my various stops in the gear industry are the holiday traditions. Some places had well organized off-site events; others made do with more home grown festivities. One year — when I was an apprentice, for example — I was part of a crew that handed out hams and turkeys to thousands of employees and retirees. It was cold tossing those frozen birds out of the trucks, but seeing the smiles on the faces of the old timers as they got reacquainted over a great buffet lunch made it worthwhile. It was easy to see why that company had such good teamwork over its history; the guys might squabble over who got the bigger bird, but they genuinely cared about the continuing success of the plant. At other companies, each department seemed to have its own way of celebrating. I’ve seen fresh- cut trees and what can truly be best described as green toilet brushes adorned with lights and decorations — surrounded by gifts both serious and of the gag variety. The variety of foods bubbling in crock pots was exceeded only by the different kinds of sweets. There were even fruit cakes that were quite tasty. Over time, the off-site events have become more reserved — an inevitable and logical response to changing views on drinking and driving. Indeed — one year in the early 1980s a gathering of just under a hundred people resulted in two DUI arrests and one near-miss. The “near-miss” recognized his impairment, parked his car, and flagged down a cab to get home. The next day he had to report his car as stolen since he could not remember where it was parked. Some changes we definitely can live with. And maybe can’t live without. Whatever your company’s holiday traditions, I hope you enthusiastically embrace them. Try some of that strange, bubbling mystery meat from the crock pot. Eat a few cookies you wouldn’t normally eat. And most of all, take the time to talk to co-workers you don’t know well. My morning rounds were always more enjoyable and productive when I could put a name to a face and share a common interest in something. The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to discover and remind that caring for your people makes life better.