Wishing corporations would throw a Thunder Chicken Christmas bash

Bet their parties won’t be as good as Pete Lazetich’s.

Challenger Gray and Christmas, the recruitment outsourcing firm, reported this week that 83 percent of corporations are planning year-end holiday parties, in which they will finally unleash some of the $2.2 trillion in cash they’ve built up on their balance sheets. That’s up from 68 percent last year. And Challenger said 63 percent will have the affairs catered this year.

Back in the 1990s, I had the pleasure of working as a legal messenger for Pete Lazetich in Reno, NV. He owned the business and made a point of celebrating with employees on the Friday before a holiday. He brought in an accordionist and a keg and it was one of the best times I’ve ever had on the job. Admittedly, I only worked for him in the summers so I was there for the Fourth of July festivity.

Stanford football fans will remember Lazetich as the leader of the deadly defensive line, The Thunder Chickens, which helped the Cardinals to Rose Bowl wins in 1971 and 1972. He played in the NFL, too.

Pete, a giant man, would stride into the sorting area every day with a smile on his face and say, “Hey, how ya’ doing?” And chat up a storm. He kinda reminded me a little of Foghorn Leghorn from the Bugs Bunny cartoons. It was fun.

I think that’s because Pete actually enjoyed the people who worked for him, probably more than he enjoyed running the business. It appeared he actually liked us, and as far as I could tell, the staff liked him. That’s something you don’t hear researchers ask in surveys very often — do employees and bosses actually like each other? They should probably start measuring that.

Meanwhile, there’s a report on my desk right now that says 28 percent of workers are somewhat satisfied with their boss or supervisor and 33 percent of workers are completely disatisfied with the amount of stress on the job. The pitch is for a consultant who preaches entanglement, an approach to HR that discusses the need for commitment from both employees and management to each other and the goals of the organization. It sounds like they’ve put a lot of thought into it, if you’re interested in it check out the book the people have written, It’s My Company Too! on Amazon.

Anyway, I learned a lot from Pete, and I think corporations could learn a lot from him, too. He was  big a guy with a booming voice, but always seemed glad to see you when you showed up for work. Not sure if that was because he was surprised we all kept coming in, after all, we were also serving court papers on people, which isn’t the most pleasant of jobs.

Besides throwing a party and treating people with dignity, mostly, Pete and Cyndi, his wife didn’t mess around in the hiring process. The day I got hired was the day I came down and put in an application. You handed it in, they read it, and then interviewed you and gave you an answer right on the spot. It might have actually taken a day. But I’m pretty sure I had an offer within 24 hours.

Why I’m relating all this is that there’s so much analysis of every little thing, including the parties we throw, that the fun seems to get sucked out of everything. It makes me wonder whether employees actually enjoy these parties or would rather just get a bonus?

I’ll tell ya’ this, working for Pete, I would take the party over a bonus. And maybe there’s a message in that somewhere.

The Mines hopes your holiday party is at least as fun. Tell your boss not to skip on the accordion or the beer.

Rob Varnon