The County Commissioner’s Meeting on Thursday, January 25th was memorable in many ways. Last week’s column featured the awarding of the day reporting center contract, which was almost a year in the making. But the meeting had some other interesting aspects that also deserve mention.
At the 10:00 a.m. start time, the meeting room was packed from wall to wall because there were a number of individuals receiving service pins, and it is common for colleagues of those honored to witness the event. The commissioners almost always do these presentations at the beginning of the meeting so that the visiting employees can get back to work. There was one county employee who received a twenty-year service pin, and five others received ten-year pins. They represented six different departments from within the county, which accounted for the unusually large number in attendance. It was a joyful affair, as each of their department heads came forward to speak of their employee’s noteworthy service and commitment to their jobs. After the accolades, all the honorees got their pins and pictures taken with the county commissioners.
After this, there were five people from the prison — Lt Entz, Sgt DeFrancesco, Joe Peluso, Bev Agnoni, and Mike Romano, who received a JWD (Job Well Done) Award for their life-saving measures for a man who was literally at death’s door at the prison. The warden, in reading the commendation, noted that the paramedics credited their efforts as literally saving the man’s life. Ironically, these ‘feel good’ moments prefaced an extremely contentious session shortly later in the same meeting related to increases in pay grades for certain positions. In some ways, these two events symbolize graphically the dynamics of employee motivation.
The three county commissioners — Jack McKernan, Tony Mussare, and Rick Mirabito, — are all businessmen and successful businessmen at that. In their line of work, they employ people, and they understand as all successful managers understand, a business is only as good as the people who work in it. An individual might possess knowledge and skills in their line of work, but ‘attitude’ is the spark that motivates them on how well they do their jobs.
This worker attitude is fueled by tangibles and intangibles. The tangibles are most clearly represented in compensation, and when this is not satisfactory (or personally deemed satisfactory), motivation takes a nosedive. The intangibles are achievement, recognition, challenge, opportunities for growth, etc.
Whether the three commissioners have actually studied employee motivation theory is doubtful, but it is obvious that they have an intuitive understanding of it. They are extremely sensitive to compensation and benefit issues when they arise, especially those who are on the bottom rungs of the salary ladder.
But it is the way they express their appreciation for county workers, the intangibles, that sets the commissioners apart. Even though they realized that they had a very full agenda on that Thursday morning in late January, it seemed that the most important thing on that agenda was giving out those service pins and awarding the JWD Award. They certainly gave the impression to the eleven individuals that stood before them, and to the seventy to eighty colleagues crowded into that conference room, that esteeming those who did their jobs and did them well was worthy of honor.
Some people might think that words are cheap, and this is true if the heart is not behind the words. But when a boss pats you on the back and says with honesty, “well done” — be honest, it feels good. It means the effort is not being taken for granted. This attitude of appreciation filters down from the three county commissioners and is seen as well in the incredible bunch of department heads serving in the county government. Yes, when it comes to motivation, money still matters, but money is not everything. Just ask those eleven people who were honored on January 25th.