What is The Worst Way To Celebrate Your Employees?

drone workers stand in a line in an employee breakroom. a dystopian look at the office pizza party

As Employee Appreciation Day on March 1st draws near, it’s a golden opportunity for businesses to pause and reflect on the immense value and contributions of their teams. At WSI, we recognize the critical role employees play in the success of any organization. Therefore, we’re committed to guiding businesses through meaningful ways to show their teams the appreciation they richly deserve. However, it’s equally important to address what not to do when it comes to expressing gratitude. Let’s explore the right—and wrong—ways to celebrate your employees, ensuring your gestures of appreciation are both meaningful and impactful.

The Misstep of Pizza Parties

One common yet misguided attempt at showing employee appreciation is the notorious “pizza party.” While the intention behind offering free pizza as a token of gratitude may initially seem benign, this approach has increasingly come under fire. Criticisms stem from the perception that pizza parties are a superficial and inadequate way to express genuine appreciation or compensation, especially when employees face issues such as overwork, low wages, and stressful work environments.

The backlash against pizza parties is not about the food itself—pizza is universally beloved—but rather what these parties represent: a token gesture that fails to address or acknowledge the deeper needs and contributions of employees. Particularly among young people and online communities, there’s a growing sentiment that such efforts, especially when they involve limiting employees to a single slice or excluding non-management staff, can feel patronizing and dismissive.

Furthermore, while small gestures of appreciation can be meaningful when they genuinely reflect a manager’s limited capacity to enact broader changes, they should not replace substantial forms of recognition such as salary increases, bonuses, or improvements in working conditions. Thus, businesses should strive for more substantive ways of recognizing and rewarding their employees’ hard work and dedication.


Building a Culture of Genuine Appreciation

With the pitfalls of pizza parties in mind, let’s pivot towards more effective and heartfelt strategies to show your team they’re valued—not just on Employee Appreciation Day but year-round.

10. Personalized Thank You Notes
A handwritten note acknowledging specific contributions can make employees feel seen and valued.

9. Public Acknowledgment
Recognizing employees’ hard work in front of their peers boosts morale and fosters a sense of community.

8. Professional Development
Offering opportunities for growth shows investment in your team’s future and career progression.

7. Flexible Working Arrangements
Adapting work schedules to fit employees’ lives demonstrates respect for their work-life balance.

6. Engaging Team Building
Choose activities that genuinely bring your team together, fostering stronger connections.

boss in a suit in a factory shakes hands with a young man while his team watches

5. Thoughtful Surprises
Small, unexpected gifts or treats can brighten your team’s day and show your appreciation in a tangible way.

4. Extra Time Off
Time is a precious commodity. Offering additional time off acknowledges your team’s need for rest and rejuvenation.

3. Enhanced Work Environment
Improving the physical workspace or providing better tools shows a commitment to your employees’ comfort and productivity.

2. Recognition Programs
Regularly celebrating achievements through awards or bonuses motivates and honors exceptional work.

1. Open, Genuine Communication
Above all, fostering an environment where feedback is welcomed and valued demonstrates a deep respect for your employees’ voices and contributions.

As we approach Employee Appreciation Day, it’s crucial to remember that the best way to honor your employees is through actions that reflect a sincere appreciation for their hard work and dedication. Avoiding superficial gestures like pizza parties and focusing instead on meaningful recognition strategies can significantly impact your team’s morale, satisfaction, and overall performance. By implementing these practices, you’ll not only make Employee Appreciation Day special but also cultivate a culture of continuous appreciation and respect within your business. Let’s use this occasion as a stepping stone towards building stronger, more motivated teams ready to achieve greatness together.