Never too late to say thank you

It’s funny, there seems to be a recurring theme of me giving belated thank you’s in my life. Some things you take for granted, or don’t realize how valuable they are, until much, much later. Then there’s a specific trigger which switches on a light bulb over my head, and inspires me to specifically tell people how much I appreciate what they did for me.

I thanked my mom when I was 30, for having introduced me to the classic Chinese folktales of Journey to the West when I was 6.  (This was inspired by another ABC who told me he had no idea what I was referring to when I mentioned Monkey. ) I was so grateful my mom gave me that cultural reference.)

I thanked my cousin when I was 40, for taking me camping and teaching me to build a fire without lighter fluid when I was 10.  (This was inspired by a lecture by Paul Theroux, where he talked about being a Boy Scout and how profound camping had an impact on him.) I am grateful that I don’t have hang-ups about sleeping outdoors.

I thanked a former director 10 years after the fact, for the direction and free rein he gave me for first major project I worked on. (This was triggered by the frustration I had working at another agency subsequently on a similar project, and having to deal with the lack of support /interest from management.)

So recently, I made another belated thank you to a former manager of mine. She had organized a good-bye party for me several years ago when I had wrapped up delivery on a bike project I worked on full time, and leaving the agency.  I don’t think I merited it, especially since I was merely a consultant (a dime a dozen at this particular agency), and at that point my manager hadn’t worked with me for very long.

But that manager was a very nice person, so she took the time and effort to organize a good-bye party for me. (I honestly can’t remember much of it, except the nice touch where I was given a bottle of bicycle-branded wine as a parting gift!)

The trigger was that I had organized a good-bye lunch for my one staff-person who was taking a new job elsewhere.  She was my staff-person by default; her most recent manager had left a month ago.  Since I was the last manager standing, I took it upon myself to ask whether whether she preferred a luncheon or a cake-gathering.  (At this agency either or, or both are common.) I was short on bandwidth –work being really hectic, so I only offered to organize one.  She asked for a luncheon, and gave me a list of people to invite. In due course I sent out the emails and booked the restaurant for a date during her last week.

Not long after the luncheon date had been set, the staffperson went to talk to the department head, and mentioned that she expected/hoped for a cake party so she could have the opportunity to say bye to other people in other departments. The department head came and asked me (knowing I was her manager) about organizing a cake party. (He hadn’t known that I already had organized a luncheon for her, since she hadn’t included him on the list of people to invite.)  I then explained that a luncheon had been arranged, but since he was asking, I didn’t feel as if I could say no, and reluctantly organized a cake party as well. But I was livid, because it was short notice; I was really busy and short on time; I had already given the staffer a choice of one, not both; and she had gone behind my back to ask the department head about it.

I really wasn’t feeling gracious about this at all.  A couple of my other colleagues helped plan and do a lot of the stuff like picking up coffee, and setting up the room, etc.  So it worked out OK.  But organizing these things always takes time and effort, and it made me appreciate the effort my manager had made in throwing me a good-bye cake party 4 years ago.

The funniest irony?  My manager of 4 years ago who threw me the cake party, was also the manager of this staffer. So if the staffer had left before the manager, the same manager who organized my cake-party would have probably organized the cake-party and luncheon for this staffer. But she had a left a month ago, so now it was left to me. What goes around comes around, eh?


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