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A Special Thanks At Retirement Time

November 27, 2009

What can you say to a valued employee at the time of their retirement? How can you show your appreciation for years of dedication and valuable service?

Most of our adult lives are dedicated to our careers. If you add the actual time spent on the job plus the hours spent thinking about our work and the time spent getting to and from work, more of our waking hours are spent on our work than at home or with our families. People that work the majority of their careers for one employer don’t make that kind of commitment for a paycheck alone.

Above and beyond that paycheck, people make a greater kind of commitment to their work and their employer because they have hopes, expectations and dreams for their future. Not all those dreams will come true, but it’s important that they be kept alive and that the possibilities exist. It is because of those possibilities that long term relationships develop.

The enormous personal commitment that is made over the course of a working career merits a personal response. There is a big difference between working “for” a company and working “at” a company. When people have made a life long commitment to their job, they want to be able to look back and say that they worked “for” someone not just “at” a job. They want to look back on their employer with pride. Proud of what they contributed and proud that their contribution was appreciated.

What can you say at retirement time to show your appreciation for all that a valued relationship with a loyal employee has meant to you and your business? It’s too late to say a mere thanks, you just have to hope that your actions over the years have said thanks in many small ways on a daily basis.

The important qualities we all look for in a good employee, integrity, dedication and loyalty, aren’t ones that we can demand from people, they must be earned and given time to develop. They are built over time in a mutually respectful relationship. It’s a company’s responsibility to create an environment where that relationship can develop. Once the relationship is built it should be respected and protected.

Of all the management books that have been written, I have yet to see one that addresses the subject of meaningfully recognizing a career of loyalty and dedication at the time of retirement. If there was such advice, it would probably include all the traditional items such as a party, a gift and a plaque or watch that would indicate the years of service. But after the euphoria of the ceremonial moments are over, it is the respect and appreciation that was shown on a daily basis that will let a person know that they wisely invested their life’s work for an employer that appreciated their effort.

It is difficult to put a value on all the small sacrifices that a dedicated employee makes over the course of their career. It’s one thing for the owner of a business to be working late or coming in early when there is a project that needs to be done, but its something special when you have employees that have that same commitment. There are some people that always make that extra effort, just like it was their business.

An employer expects to have a number of different employees with differing personalities over the years. Sometimes it’s not so easy for a long term employee to adjust to the different personalities of supervisors and co-workers over a number of years. Some on the job conflicts are inevitable but the dedicated employee makes the adjustments so that the work gets done.

The appreciation that you show to someone who has put forth the extra effort and made those adjustments over a number of years can’t be too great. The real thanks at retirement time should have start on day one.

How can you say thanks to special person on the occasion of her retirement? You can’t, you just have to hope that your actions over the years have said thanks in many ways. Because it’s your business, make sure you take the time to say thanks and keep the dreams alive for all those people that you will miss someday.

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