I received this post from my colleague Rosario Rizzo, and I’m happy to share it.
A few days ago, I was in a classroom with Arduino, attending his course on sales management.
We were talking about how to incentivize sales people and about their career within the company, when I remembered something that had happened to me, and shared the story in class. Arduino asked me to write a post for his blog and so… here I am.
At the end of the ’80s, I was hired by an insurance company as a programmer analyst, with an entry-level position and salary.
Here’s what happened next.
On my first day at work, I was very excited. After signing the employment contract I was taken to a room set up as a photography studio, to take photos for the employee records, and for the magnetic badge, I needed to access the workplace.
I was immediately struck by the fact that there were two fabric panels hanging on a wall, a green one and a red one (the first thing that comes to mind is the Italian flag, but that was not it). They asked me to sit in front of the green panel and shot a few photos with a Polaroid (the old-fashioned instant camera that prints photos in a couple of minutes, remember?)
So I asked them the question: why take the photos in front of the green panel and not the red panel? The answer I got was that the red background was reserved for employees with a career plan leading to a management position.
I am no anthropologist, but this memory makes me think of the colours warriors paint on their faces and bodies before going to war, wherein some tribes certain colours are reserved for the chiefs. Have we really evolved so little in all these years?
Another custom in the same company involved chairs: at entry level, you had the right to an office chair with 5 wheels but no armrests; when you passed to a higher grade you were granted a 5-wheeled office chair with armrests, and an extra chest of drawers.
Dear Rino, the story about the backdrop is really funny and really unusual.
However, I’m not surprised by the office chair with armrests or the extra drawers. Both situations point to an organizational vision in which employee motivation depends on irrelevant details (when the management is at a complete loss as to what to do…).
What’s important is that we do not feel gratified the day we are granted an extra chest of drawers – or any other equivalent symbol – as a sign of our value to the organization.
Do you agree?