by Lisa Sisley on December 3, 2012

Sometimes I’m asked what kind of incentive programs we have for employees. Really, we have just one: the pants. A pair of XXL Old Navy pajama pants, drawstring waist, printed with tiny gnomes all over.

Gnomes have been a thing here since our early days. About six years ago, my daughter Anne begged me to buy her a kitschy gnome yard art piece at Sears and I did (mostly just to call her bluff). That led to this:


People give me gnomes for Christmas. Anne bought me a Mickey gnome at Disney World. I bought a book of gnome poetry in Ireland (sure, and it’s bad), and Kristin just gave me a K-State gnome. It’s out of hand.

But back to the pants: Kristin, Susan and I bought the gnome pants several years ago — seven bucks on clearance — and started “bestowing” the pants on New Bostonians who do something outstanding. (I have no memory about why. It’s probably weird.)

Maybe someone nails a logo concept on the first try. Maybe someone else meets a difficult deadline. Maybe someone writes a terrific story. Whatever it is, that person gets the pants, and gets to keep them until the next person does something pants-worthy.

Gnome pants

Anybody can bestow the pants, but you can’t give them to yourself, and it’s bad form to lobby for them (no Oscar-season, gift-bag bribery allowed). Recipients sometimes tack the pants up to a wall, like a pelt. A couple of people have worn them (briefly—the pants are mostly ceremonial).

When we give the pants, we usually make a big deal about it and yell, “JAMI (or whoever) GETS THE PANTS!” Someone will want to know what she did to deserve them, so we talk about the accomplishment with the whole office.

I think we like the pants because A) they’re just ridiculous; and B) they’re a legitimate, heartfelt, timely expression of appreciation for a job well done. They’re not a bogus “employee recognition” program. They’re a boisterous and spontaneous THANK YOU FOR BEING AMAZING. Which is the only kind of recognition that’s worth a damn anyway.