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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 10.24.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Get stickered, be happy

"I got a sticker," Abby announces every day as she comes out of Pre-K. The sticker is good. We like the sticker.

If you have received a sticker, you have passed the morning without major incident - no tantrums, no biting, no flicking rolled up balls of dried Elmer's Glue and yelling "Boogers!"

These things may be fun but if you're four, you don't want to suffer the stigma of leaving class sticker-free.

Occasionally, Abby comes home with a certificate. The other day it was "Abigail M. Knows Her Colors!" She was so proud, not so much about knowing the colours but about getting a paper. I only hope that some day she will come home with a certificate that reads "Abigail M. Knows 'Colour' is spelled with a 'U' in Canada!"

All this got me thinking: I want stickers and certificates too.

Seriously, how could there be labour unrest if workers received the positive reinforcement that Pre-K kids got? Imagine the sudden surge in job satisfaction if employees received a bunny sticker every day. Has Jean Charest thought of this?

Current business philosophy is based on rewarding employees with major perks and bonuses, such as use of the company condo in Aruba, staff parties, bail money. But such high-end perks are expensive for the company and usually reserved for top employees, leaving those on the lower end of the employee scale to satisfy themselves with turkeys at Christmas and an extra hour at lunch for an awkward retirement celebration for Marge in Accounting.

The Pre-K Perk Program (PPP) would not only level the playing field but also generate a daily reward-based motivational environment (which is an MBA way of saying "make work fun").

Imagine this scenario:

"Hi, honey. How was your day?"

"Great. Look at the certificate I got."

"Oh Don! 'Donald R. Landed the Fernblatt Account!' And there's a picture of a pony giving a thumbs-up."

"I'm pretty darn pleased, I can tell you. Put it on the fridge next to the 'Spreadsheet Champion!" certificate."

"Well, this certainly makes up for not getting that sticker yesterday."

"I suppose. But I didn't really mean to spray copy toner all over the lunch room."

"I know, Don, I know."

The PPP would also be good for the economy, reviving the slumping sticker industry which has never recovered from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas glut of 2000.

The tricky part would be coming up with a way to manage and supervise the program. You would likely end up with an entire new class of middle-managers who would roam shop floors and cubicles determining whether employees were sticker-worthy. Alas, as with all middle-management structures, I see the potential for pettiness and abuse:

"Sorry, Marsden. No sticker for you today."

"What do you mean? I filled out all the time-analysis sheets for the past month, I offered excellent ideas during the strategic planning meeting, and I kept my desk neat and tidy all day."

"Yeah, but you took the last cruller in the break room. The cruller's mine, Marsden, got it?"

"Oh yeah? Well, I'm telling."

"You tell and I'll get you!"

The key to avoiding this inappropriate behaviour - what I like to call "sticker bias" - is ensuring the same level of camaraderie and teamwork in the workplace that you find in the Pre-K environment. This means going beyond stickers and certificates to include such Pre-K protocols as holding hands when entering and leaving a building (quietly, please!), no sharing snacks, and group singing:

"Mark up, mark up
Everybody everywhere
Mark up, mark up
Everybody buy a share."

And let's not forget my favourite Pre-K perk - nap time! I can see my certificate now: "Ross M. Knows How to Snooze!"

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