Why Pizza Parties Don’t Work

What corporate America is missing about employee appreciation

Shelly Fagan

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Photo by Shourav Sheikh on Unsplash

Years ago, I had the displeasure of working for a massive corporation with tens of thousands of employees across the globe. Their manner of treating staff was so heinous, it has practically become a cliché for the stereotypical predatory employer. We even had the “we are a family” speeches and email blasts from the executives.

During my time there, only one employee was ever given a raise. It was so out of character that the story became legendary. However, they did have an employee appreciation program that sponsored fast food meals and very cheap prizes. I wrote about this sadness here.

Employers don’t want to give workers what they want — a living wage, healthcare, shorter work week, three-day weekends, and less micromanaging. The trend is to move further away from these ideals of less work and greater freedom as evidenced by the troubling statistic that more than half of full-time workers spend over 40 hours at their jobs.

A 2021 study found that one of the top demands of employees was a commitment to health, yet only 30% of businesses with fewer than 50 employees offer insurance coverage.

I was valued by my team because I was super reliable and available to fill in shifts. I volunteered to work holidays so that my coworkers could spend time with their families. There was no holiday pay, either.

I was recruited for a similar position with a smaller organization for a higher salary and generous benefits. It was a much more attractive situation. I was sad to leave my team.

When I quit, my immediate supervisor asked me what it would take to keep me — other than more pay.

Appreciation will work

Sometime during the past few decades, employers began to buy into the idea that a hollow gesture of appreciation — no matter how fake — was a substitute for decent pay. This skewed belief was best exemplified in healthcare jobs during COVID.

Companies funneled money into propaganda programs to convince employees that they were treated well instead of actually, you know, doing it. To make matters worse, the results were often insulting — pizza…

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Shelly Fagan

Complicated subjects made accessible. Politics, Basic Income, Philosophy. I follow back.