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Is employee recognition worth the effort?

pocketknife award

We recently moved my Dad out of the home he has lived in for nearly four decades.  Declining cognitive abilities and frailties of age necessitated his move to assisted living.  One of the traumas, and joys, of moving from home to assisted living is shedding many belongings which accumulated over a lifetime. So many memories. As we went through yet another set of keepsakes, Dad spotted a metal item at the bottom of the box. It was a well-worn pocketknife bearing the words “Safety Award,” and it had the name “C. Mallaro” engraved on it.  That would be my grandfather, Carl Mallaro.  Dad proceeded to tell me that his Dad had been awarded the pocketknife years ago by his employer.  As best we can tell it was 80 years ago. Other than some pictures my Dad has, this pocket knife is the last remaining memento of my grandparent’s lives. My Dad can’t remember much of anything, but when he saw the knife in the box it triggered something – a memory, a story, pride.

My grandfather never graduated from high school. He was laborer who did equipment maintenance for a mining company. He scratched out a living as best he could and his three kids had a better life than he did. Call him the base of the pyramid of the American Dream. And once upon a time his boss made the effort to give him a safety award and a simple, engraved pocketknife to commemorate the achievement. Nearly eighty years later the man is long since gone, so is the boss who gave him the award, so is the company he worked for.  But I can imagine the celebration by my grandparents that likely followed the bestowing of this safety award. So much so that the family story which narrated the award, and the engraved knife, were passed down as a treasured keepsake of my family for decades to come, the last earthly possession of my grandparent’s lives.

The next time you hesitate to give out recognition for a job well done, or if you think it’s just not that important to the recipient, I hope you will think about my grandfather’s pocketknife.

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