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Photos: top left: David Maril with the late Chuck Thompson, the voice of the Orioles and Colts, the summer he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993; top right: a perspective shot of Maril at Wrigley Field; featured photo: journalist Ken Decoste with the late, great Harry Caray and Maril.

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Holiday season is appropriate time to recognize quality work and extra effort

While it’s easy to criticize, making the effort to praise and show appreciation are too often overlooked

Making it a practice to always recognize and acknowledge a job well done is a worthwhile New Year’s resolution

By David Maril

As we proceed through the New Year’s holiday season in general, many of us are weary from making decisions about what to buy for gifts. You want to surprise members of the family and friends but on the other hand it’s disappointing if the gift is something not needed or wanted.

The high number of returned merchandise is responsible for the increase in shoppers who settle for gift certificates that can be used for whatever the person wants.

It’s a tough season of decisions related to gifts, donations and end of year expenses. We are besieged with requests for charitable donations. It’s the season when hundreds of worthwhile organizations need help. Often when you support one charity, your name is automatically added to other request lists and you almost need a wheelbarrow to carry in all the mail asking for dominations each day.

Many of these organizations are having an even tougher time than usual, and behind on their fundraising because people have already been called upon donations related to needed relief funds that are highlighted in the news.

THEN THERE ARE THE DECISIONS about gifts for people who perform services. If you still receive a daily printed newspaper, there’s the person who is out there in all kinds of weather, getting the paper in the vicinity of your front door every day. If they have not thrown the newspaper on the roof or broken a window, some type of a holiday bonus is due. But how much?

What about your mailman or mailwoman, providing postal delivery in rain, sleet and snow?How many others who do work for you deserve some type of reward? Perhaps you have a reliable, trustworthy mechanic who takes a special interest in giving fairly priced service for your car.

PERHAPS LOST IN ALL THESE MONETARY deliberations is the importance of simple recognition and appreciation for extra effort and quality work. This doesn’t necessarily mean money. Too often we take the easy, impersonal way out, simply writing a check and mailing it off to someone.

Here’s a different option to consider.

If someone has done a good job for you, take some time and call up the person’s boss and tell them you appreciate the quality work that was completed.

Better yet, write a letter.

We are all quick to call in complaints, fire off emails or write letters of criticism when shoddy work is performed. When we have a gripe, it doesn’t take much motivation to contact a business and express displeasure.

But what about when something is done well?

Some will say that’s what we are paying for.

But you know you don’t always gets what you have paid for. There is a lot of mediocre work being done by people going through the motions who just don’t care.

When you do encounter a person who is conscientious and takes the extra effort to provide a quality service, show your appreciation and make sure recognition is received.

HERE ARE A couple of examples.

I had been dealing with a mechanic in a car service department for years. After a series of significant repairs were done efficiently and at fair prices, I decided to write the owner of the dealership a letter, praising the mechanic and the work he had been doing over the years.

The owner was impressed enough to call the mechanic in and read the letter to him. The mechanic felt good about receiving recognition of his work from his boss and had to be gratified a customer appreciated the job he was doing.

Ten years later, this mechanic is now the service foreman at a large dealership in New England. I still take my Jeep, which has over 376,000 miles on it, to him for service.

I REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I started this practice of trying to recognize extra effort and quality work.

I had a chimney, connected to a fireplace insert stove, cleaned and was impressed enough with the meticulous care the technician took to call the company and praise the way the job was done.

When I began the phone conversation I could tell the company representative was expecting a complaint and gearing up to go on the defensive. I heard a sigh of surprise and relief when she realized I was calling to praise the technician and not blast him.

“Oh, I’ll tell him about your call and I will also make sure the owner hears about this.,” she said. “We really appreciate this type of feedback.”

It’s even more appreciated because unfortunately companies seldom hear positive feedback from the public when it is merited.

It’s so easy to do but something we never think about.

WORKING FOR YEARS IN THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS, you learn very quickly that you seldom hear reaction when you write or produce something good, even when it is appreciated, But when you make a mistake, misspell a name, or make someone feel slighted, the phone never stops ringing and emails full of criticism come pouring in.

Keeping this in mind, whenever I read what I consider an especially well written or informative column or investigative article, I will quickly email the journalist. I can tell by their responses they appreciate an occasional communication of praise to go along with all the criticism they generally receive. The same holds true with TV journalists.

So why not, going through this holiday period, make a list of the people who have done exemplary work for you and call their companies to spread the word to their bosses that you appreciate their work?

In fact, here’s an even better idea. Next year don’t limit this practice to the holiday season.

The other day, ordering over the phone children’s subscription gifts for a number of kids’ magazines, I encountered an extremely helpful person in customer service. In these days of mechanized prompts and impersonal computerized customer service, her assistance was impressive.

She took so much time explaining the different purchase options, I asked to be switched to her management supervisor, after the transaction was completed, and left a message of how terrific she had been. It is important for people to know that quality work and extra efforts are appreciated and should be recognized.

ONE YEAR WHEN I WAS WORKING early evening newspaper shifts, I used to stop in a takeout restaurant, with another copy editor, to pick up dinner that could be heated later in the microwave.

It didn’t take long to notice when one particular person, Adam, was managing behind the counter, the ordering process went quickly and smoothly. It didn’t matter whether there were three people in line or 30 when Adam was on duty. Although the youngest employee in this restaurant, he was also the most courteous and efficient and would step in at the right time to aid co-workers who were struggling.

On the days Adam, the restaurant’s assistant manager, was off, the line took forever, even if there were just a couple of customers.

I called up the company’s corporate office to praise Adam’s job performance and impact on the restaurant. The restaurant chain executive thanked me and said Adam would be automatically nominated for employee of the month award.

A month later, Adam was transferred to another branch and named manager. Perhaps putting in the good word for a deserving person contributed in a small way to the promotion.

Why not as a New Year’s resolution take the time to offer praise and recognition whenever it is merited? It offers you a feeling of balance and fairness when paired with all the instances where you are motivated to complain about something.

David Maril has been a columnist, sports editor and copy editor at three newspapers published in Massachusetts, winning numerous writing and section-design awards. As sports editor of the Milford Daily News, he covered the Boston Red Sox, Celtics and the New England Patriots. At the Brockton Enterprise he served as vice president of the newspaper’s guild, dealing with contract negotiations and workforce issues through difficult economic times. He also served on the board of the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, where he is a lifetime member and voter in Major League Baseball’s annual Cooperstown Hall of Fame balloting. For several years was a columnist for Voice Of Baltimore. The son of the late artist Herman Maril, whose work is included in over 100 museum collections, David splits his time between Cape Cod, MA and Baltimore, MD. He currently serves as president of the Herman Maril Foundation, which supports curatorial projects, art education programs and exhibitions related to the study of his father’s work. The website, featuring his father’s artwork, is hermanmaril.com. A graduate of Park School in Brooklandville, MD, David majored in English at Clark University in Worcester, MA.

If you wold like to comment on this blog David can be reached at david@davidmaril.com.