Work milestone - a short speech/anecdote is expected - what to say?
August 10, 2016 5:41 PM   Subscribe

So I'm approaching an arbitrary anniversary at my job, and usually at the regular company-wide meetings they announce so & so's milestone, and they get up in front of everybody to receive a small token gift from management, and then the person usually spouts off some kind of anecdote/short story about work. I don't know what to say as I feel kind of 'meh' about my job in general.

"Wow, I can't believe it's been 10 years! The company has come so far and I've been so lucky to be here, etc. etc. When I first started, I remember working with Jimmy from marketing, man, did he ever love those cheesy Hawaiian shirts on Friday and his child pornography collection, huh? blah blah blah blah blah etc......"

My position/expertise is extremely specific and opportunities for me are few. Also, I've got mild burnout, but after a few years of being here, I've settled into doing the best I can and showing up (90% of the job right?) but not doing much more than that - unfortunately there's no room for legitimate advancement currently. I'm content overall, and outside of work things are GREAT, but this isn't about job satisfaction.

While I'm thankful to be employed and for as long as I have, I don't feel that jazzed or obligated to say anything at all. Should I just say 'thanks' and sit my ass back down? I don't want to appear ungrateful or act like an ass, and have that come to bite me later on. I don't really want to be fake about it either, but I probably will. How can I do this gracefully without overthinking it?
posted by kilohertz to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i am never disappointed when someone keeps things brief in a meeting! (Especially if there are several people being announced and giving thanks). Do you like the people you work with? Can you say a thanks and that you are so happy that you work with such a great team. Flattery should never come back to bite you later on.
posted by rozee at 5:57 PM on August 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

I would keep it short and just say something like, "Thank you so much for recognizing my time here. I feel fortunate to be part of this team."

It's not too gushy, and it saves you from having to come up with an anecdote. You wouldn't have to be fake, and it wouldn't appear ungrateful to me if I were your coworker listening.
posted by shortyJBot at 5:58 PM on August 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

"Thank you very much. Time sure does fly. I am not much for public speaking but I do want to say how much I appreciate this. Thank you." Then, sit down and smile.
posted by AugustWest at 5:59 PM on August 10, 2016 [19 favorites]

It's a chance for you to show appreciation for anyone or anything, no matter how small, that makes the job better than it would otherwise be. Especially if you've noticed someone doing something that's otherwise unrecognized, you can recognize it and them, publicly; if this small thing is reinforced, it might be more likely to continue, or grow, or other similar efforts that are largely unmeasured and unrewarded might be similarly encouraged. This is how we keep things from becoming soulless and heartless.

However, if what it will cost you exceeds the benefit, or exceeds your personal resources, you are of course not obligated. Just be aware of the opportunity.
posted by amtho at 6:14 PM on August 10, 2016 [12 favorites]

I think amtho's right.

You could definitely buy yourself some good will/warm feelings that make your meh work life a little nicer by murmuring a few short sweet nothings. And it might help you personally to sit down and try to reconceive of your daily life at work: what you're grateful for there, who you like there, what you've learned there, what you're glad exists there, what you'd miss if you were gone from there.

If it were me, in this situation, I'd aim for three paragraphs or so, and I'd start with a killer quote — something snappy, imaginative or funny. Then I'd pull key words/theme from the quote to fill in the other couple of paragraphs and thank folks.

If that's easier said then done, humor always helps, particularly positive exaggeration. In a case where you don't feel strongly, tall-tale silly will make people laugh, and you don't have to pretend anything, all you need is a kernel of truth.

Or, if you're the kind who likes to make a splash, you could write the whole thing in rhyme, or riff off a song everyone's bound to know, and pass out lyrics.

The key to this kind of thing is to find the good, and then go at it with glee!
posted by Violet Blue at 6:37 PM on August 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Agreed with the others. Give credit to the team, and then sit down.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:53 PM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

You are not obliged to do anything. I have been known to defy convention and flat refuse to participate in exercises like this. Corporate life can drain one's soul - you mention burnout. Feeling obliged to go along with rituals which your heart is not in is one way in which you are not being true to yourself.

That said, this type of exchange is not the forum to rail against corporate culture. It is an opportunity to thank others and to express gratitude, and to grit your teeth about the shit you put up with.

Thinking laterally, and the approach that I take these days: one option is to have a quiet word with whoever will hand the gift over to you. If you are not "supposed" to "expect" a gift, you could explain that you feel anxious about the prospect of being put on the spot. Between you, come up with a brief, light-hearted exchange that will fit the bill. This takes the spotlight off you. An experienced manager will understand that, like most people, you are doing your job the best you can, and that your work is not your life. You will be able to find a way to be sincere and at the same time not sabotage the celebration of what amounts to a milestone for the company, if a bittersweet moment for you.

In your post, you expressed gratitude for your job and joy at your life outside of work. Perhaps your job in some way facilitates the latter. Are you able to express these sentiments with sincerity - and a name-check or two if appropriate - in ninety seconds or less?
posted by Erinaceus europaeus at 11:40 PM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

They wanted to hand me a 25 year pin at a ceremony in the auditorium in front of 250 people. It's a grip and grin where you get a pin and a certificate in a frame, then you get your picture taken with the director. The director is a Captain in the US Navy who is here for three years and who has never spoken to me. I politely declined. If it's not possible for you to receive this recognition privately then smile, nod, say 'blah blah blah' and move on.
posted by fixedgear at 5:41 AM on August 11, 2016

I think my internal emphasis got lost in my writing. What I meant to convey is this:

You get to decide what you want to highlight. It's your chance to consider what you think is important, who you think is worthy of mention, and to draw everyone's attentiont to that. Your years of experience mean that your thoughts have weight, and the ceremony means that others recognize this, to a degree.

Opportunities like this aren't that common. If you want to use this power, you could do some good.
posted by amtho at 6:30 AM on August 11, 2016

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