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When is a Treat NOT a Treat?

When I was a kid growing up in Liverpool I used to look forward to my dad getting home from work because he would often bring a small treat … it might be a chocolate bar to share with my sister.  In our house new clothes were a treat we mostly got on special occasions … new shoes at Christmas was treat I especially remember.  One memorable Xmas I wore my new shoes to bed I was so excited!

How times change!

When you don’t have much it is easy to appreciate a “treat”.   Something out of the ordinary, something you don’t get too often, something special that always gives you that “lift”.

When disposable income isn’t a concern , a treat is more difficult to define.  If you can get whatever you want, whenever you want, then a treat isn’t a treat … perhaps it becomes an indulgence?

As parents this dilemma is evident on any special occasion … we give our kids whatever they want, and the “goodie pile” gets a little silly!  The kids often go from one present to the next with nary a recognition of what they have received.  It is no longer special.

We do it with our diets … evidenced by the increase in obesity rates over the years.  We don’t stop eating when we are full, we pile in those extra fries (supersized), we have that dessert every day instead of as a treat on occasion.  We enjoy those “bad things” so much that we have bigger portions.  We don’t deny ourselves much at all.

Our society encourages the behaviour and many families try to “keep up with Joneses”, when they really can’t afford it.

It is the same with our work habits … we push the boundaries with “treats” until they are no longer treats.

Sure its nice to take off early every now and then on a Friday after a particularly tough week.  Before long it becomes the norm and instead of an hour or so it becomes a half day.  We have lots of ways of justifying how hard we work, forgetting that we also arrive later than we should, rarely put in extra time but we “feel like” we work hard.

Maybe we treat ourselves to a few minutes checking the news during the day … because we work really hard, and its just a few minutes!   Then we add the sports write ups, maybe we have a sports pool, perhaps we check some stocks, keep up with Facebook and before you know it those minutes all add up.  Suddenly it is no longer “treating yourself” to a quick break, it becomes an expected, and very unproductive part of your day.

It is just human nature and human nature is a funny thing … we all enjoy a treat.  Yet once we have it we want it all the time, and then it isn’t a treat any more.  So then we have to find the next treat!

In business we use “treats” as incentives for our staff … but if they are not “appreciated” are they really treats?

I think it is very important that if you are providing “treats” for your staff, that they recognise they are getting treats.  My suggestion is that :

a.  We need to take time to appreciate the “treats” we have; and

b.  We should not abuse those treats.

If you are a leader, take some time to remind your people of the treats they have.  Another trait of human nature is the feeling that “the grass is greener” on the other side.  It would be a shame to lose good people because the didn’t value the environment (and all of its little, or not so little, treats) that they have … only to find out later that “if they had only realised”!