The year was 2009. The world was still reeling from the financial crisis of 2008. Companies were laying off employees, skipping bonuses, and slashing benefits. My company was affected as well, though not as badly as some.
In a Boston office meeting one of the global heads of HR came to speak about the impacts. His presentation was funny and entertaining, but one thing he said stuck in my mind better than anything else that day.
“I wish I could walk up to someone and say ‘I could have just punched you in the face right now, but I didn’t. So you’re welcome.’ That just doesn’t come across very well. But I want to tell you, we could have punched you in the face but we didn’t. We spent a lot of time thinking of how we could best take care of our people. I know that you’re frustrated that raises and bonuses weren’t good. But while other companies were reducing salaries and laying people off, we deliberately chose a strategy that would allow us to keep people employed and not reduce salaries. Yes, it’s hard, and yes, it’s frustrating, but please remember that we didn’t punch you in the face.”
I’m sure I mangled that quote, but that is the essence of it.