Giving Generously- A Different Corporate Culture

Posted Oct 10, 2018 by: Amy RothGiving Generously- A Different Corporate Culture

In my first year at Wilcox & Barton, Inc. I received a call from Bill and Russ saying they needed to speak with me about something.  The tone of the call was serious and my mind raced, wondering what I had done or not done. After an anxious moment, they broke into an excited torrent of praise and reward.  They told me they wanted to send me, with my family, on a trip of our choosing.  To anywhere.  They were giving me an extra week of vacation and an open travel plan.  I was shocked and relieved.  Then completely overwhelmed and joyful. 

Many workplaces reward their employees in a variety of ways that are meaningful and appreciated – raises, bonuses, extra days off – but very few companies reward people in such a creative, open-ended, and breathtaking way.  This reward wasn’t tied to a performance review or other career weigh station.  It wasn’t a carrot that had been dangled on a long stick of expectation.  It came from out of the blue and set off a sequence of happy experiences. 

I had the joy of telling my husband and kids – watching their surprise and excitement as my job reached into their lives. We got to tell family and friends, something you might not do with a raise or a bonus.  We then got to spend months thinking and talking about the trip – letting our minds and discussions travel around the world before we began planning.  

Most importantly, receiving such a generous gift made me want to share it. I had grown up primarily with my mom and sister and travel hadn’t really fit into our budget. My mom had worked hard - raising us while working full time and putting herself through night school - and rarely rewarded herself.  I called my sister and pitched the idea of expanding the trip to include them, with us splitting the additional cost as a gift to our mom.  Telling our mom that we planned to take her on a long-overdue and exotic vacation was awesome, a quick flip of our parent-child roles.  Suddenly the planning crossed state lines, connecting the three of us in a web of anticipation. 

The trip itself, to Hawaii and Kauai, was everything we had hoped.  It was beautiful and memorable.  Two weeks of volcanos, beaches, sea turtles, coastline hikes, wild horses, rain forest, waterfalls, and black sand.  It was also the most time my kids had ever spent with their grandmother and aunt at one time, and the most time the three of us had spent together since college.

That was April 2012.  Later that fall, my vibrant mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia.  Like so many, she fought brutal illness and endured painful treatment.  Wilcox & Barton, Inc. once again gave generously, providing me both the time and support I needed to be there. Her battle lasted less than a year.

The words once-in-a-lifetime are ironically overused but sometimes you have an experience that simply can’t be replicated.  I value all the memories of that trip, both mine and my kids’. I also feel so lucky that I got to treat my mom and her grandkids not only to the trip itself, but to the time together - something that I may not otherwise have made space for in our busy lives.

Thinking about that trip and its impact on my family brought to mind the word generosity, which refers to both an attitude and a behavior.  The University of Notre Dame has an ongoing study called Science of Generosity (https://generosityresearch.nd....One of their pages states that “Generosity also involves giving to others not simply anything in abundance but rather giving those things that are good for others. Generosity always intends to enhance the true wellbeing of those to whom it gives.”   We don’t always think of our working lives as the place where we give generously.  Bill and Russ understand that starting from a place of generosity when they reward or recognize an employee, or support their community, can have a powerful and lasting impact.