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Pizza Parties as Motivation & Other Ways to Ruin Employee Morale

My first “pizza party as motivation” experience happened when I worked in a call center. Still very green to the industry, I had no idea that this would be our collective token of appreciation for a very successful Q2. In fact, I wasn’t even mad because I was grateful for the job and the opportunity to get my foot in the door in Customer Service. I assumed the employees who’d been there the longest rolled their eyes when asked for their preference between cheese and pepperoni because maybe they were tired of those options and wanted veggie? I would soon learn and ultimately share their sentiment after my 10th month into the job, that only director level and above leaders would be receiving monetary bonuses that year. We were, however, encouraged to drop our ideas into the team idea box to “build morale” and “celebrate the wins.” It’s safe to say that I got my year experience and quickly found an opportunity with a company who appropriately rewarded the people doing the work, and not just the senior level leadership, who quite frankly spent their days delegating work to others and taking credit for the success of the low men (and women) on the totem pole.


What is a good motivator, you ask?

  • Money
  • Perks that save employees money
  • Reimbursements for things like gym memberships and whatever thing is going to maintain/improve physical and mental health
  • Promotions

Just to name a few…

It is true that some companies are still operating under these outdated principals & continue to scoot by with rewarding & compensating their employees with the bare minimum. At these places, morale is probably low, and motivation is hard to find. It appears these companies could experience a real wake-up call, however. As the younger generations / Gen Z’ers join the workforce, they are coming with completely different attitudes about their careers and the companies they work for. Attracting top talent and motivating employees will look different for these folks.

Is it wrong for employees to expect their leaders to support them by being able to perform the role themselves? Or what about the belief that respect is earned, not just given because of a title? If people are going to college and accumulating debt so they can be experts in their field, isn’t it fair to pay them a livable wage? This new generation is not going to work 10-hour workdays just to manage their workload, and they certainly aren’t going to perform a role for a year that they don’t have the title or get paid for, just to prove their capabilities, especially when the role they are working toward is not even guaranteed.

As an “elder millennial” (don’t you dare say geriatric), I find myself caught between these new ideals and the long-held belief that one must pay their dues in the early stages of their career like I did; that hard work pays off and going above and beyond even if it’s not part of my current role is just the right thing to do. I have been truly fortunate to have worked for many servant leaders and think that this plays a huge role in why I don’t mind going the extra mile. When I look at the company culture and values at successful companies, one thing they have in common is that they are a people-first organization. I’m willing to bet that these companies aren’t using pizza parties as single tokens of appreciation.

If you really think about it, employees who are valued, appropriately compensated, & given opportunities for growth have generally high morale already.  Implementing things like spirit week and having catered lunches are fun and great, but they shouldn’t be the only incentives and they certainly won’t keep good people around for long. Try using these as an addition to, rather than an in lieu of.

My final thought is this: Take care of your employees and they will in turn work hard and make the company successful. It seems like a fair trade-off to me.

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