I recently had a chance to accompany a friend to Long Service Awards function as her plus one for her completing a decade in her organization. I have not attended awards function often in my professional career, and when I see my husband attending almost all of them in his firm, I started regretting my decision to remain isolated from this momentous occasion of networking and feeling good about yourself.
We reached on time. Were welcomed warmly and offered coffee and biscuits .We tried finding a couple of folks who my friend would recognize and who would return the favor. Then went inside the hall where chairs were neatly lined up for guests, an exact match to the number of people who had been invited .Nice touch, instead of having to scramble for seats right next to dais or closest to the VIPs.
One hour went by .My friend found someone for a small chit chat .I was an outsider and observer, so kept a smile to appear amiable .I could find some familiar faces from common circle of friends, but could not run to them as the music was too loud to make any decent conversation. Program started a good 60 minutes late due to late arrival of “management” (term used by the anchor).There is a wonderment in that.
This fact baffles me. When a customer visit is scheduled or “management” drops in to meet the client CEOs, there are practically no instances of tardiness. But when it is meant for associates of one’s own organization, we just presume that they will be ok sitting in their chair for 60 odd minutes doing nothing, absolutely nothing, but killing time. I had a lot to say about this to my friend, which she accepted with a shrug as being way of life.
It might imply that this is an opportunity to network that is what it is meant to be .Pray then, why not mention in the invites, so that in tradition of democracy, some can actually be spared who did not come here to network? And who do people network with in such a gathering, with loud music and chairs aligned in rows? We might as well be in a theatre.
Anyhow ,the program began .The anchor enthusiastically sang paeans in praise of folks who had completed three /two decades in the company .Dignitaries brought their families who were duly acknowledged ,standing ovations given ,speeches delivered . We clapped and clapped and clapped .It was almost 2 hours into the program when my friend’s turn for felicitations came. Before I could realize ,she was being being huddled (escorted is the corporate term) row wise on to the stage .Someone shook hands ,someone gave certificates(hers was missing ) and there was a group photograph of almost 30 odd people standing on the stage in the same anonymity as can be expected at such events. I was given a task of getting a shot of her shaking hands with some internal celebrity, but missed my chance due to the sudden wave of people surging onto stage. May be the company photographer captured something.
Despite all this, said friend was very upbeat about the evening. Looking at her and ruminating, it came to me .The reason why I do not attend these functions.
I feel they are celebration of anonymity. In other words, commemoration of team work where individuality takes a back seat except for a few.
Too many people meet another too many people. A night later, most of us do not remember either the names or the faces (except a few lucky folks who do have phenomenal memory) .We mouth inanities, insignificant small talk that is mostly irrelevant. And we celebrate giving decades of our life for a corporate goal.
While we were clapping for folks who have spent more than 2 decades into the organization, there were a few lines that were displayed talking about good qualities of individuals.
One word that struck me peculiar was “approachable “.Let us think about it a bit. Approachable for whom and for what? When did it become a unique characteristic instead of a regular one for service industry? I would believe approachability is a given, or else how will ever any business be done! May be that was the theme of the day, which I probably missed out on.
But I am digressing .I did get to meet a couple of people who I had a chance to catch up for a few minutes ,but to be there for 5 hours ,instead of spending those hours cuddled up in your bed with a good book, is a huge trade off .
Now there are people who do this with panache .They are good at small talk, they make any small thing appear significant, have a lot to share. My friend is a master of that art and I admire this quality tremendously, though from far.
To be fair, I did feel bad, for my cynicism.
We had dinner .It was a stand up affair ,and since it is difficult to hold certificate with a plate and handbag ,while also managing to appear civilized and eating enough to not regret coming to the event altogether, I helped my friend as a footstool so we can take turns.
She thanked HR /Admin who did arrangements and were on it for weeks together. They do a great job of managing logistics for an organization that big. I drove back home to my family while thinking on the profundity of corporate world and all that matters.
What I do know is, I will continue the tradition of not attending long service or any other awards function for any organization. Unless someone finds a way to do it in Scrum. Sprint, Demo, Ship and Deploy.