I have tried so many different ideas over the years to lift people’s spirits, to turn around their day, to show that I care. From a team member’s tears over a project to a fight with their life partner, I have seen a ton of feelings in the workplace. Whether I embraced those emotions or not was up to me, and I decided five years ago that it was part of my job to accept the full gamut of the human experience. Even if I saw some hot messes. And of the various things I’ve tried — from impromptu out-of-office coffee trips to gathering puppies to play with — the most successful by far has been the hedgehogs. Yes, the hedgehogs.
For my daughter’s 3rd birthday I purchased small Gund Hedgehogs to give out as a party favor. I have a huge pet peeve about throwaway plastic, so I try to purchase something small which is less likely to end up in the trash, e.g. a small Lego or a stuffed animal. It’s a personal mission. I had some leftover after the party and, besides lining them up and enjoying the cuteness, I eventually put two and two together. People were having a tough day at work? I’ve got some hedgehogs.
It’s worth noting HOW SOFT THESE HEDGEHOGS ARE (yes, I’m promoting the hedgehogs). Time and time again, people will look at me like I’m crazy when I pull a stuffed animal out of my filing cabinet. They’ll be in the middle of a sentence like “Why are you…”, and then I’ll hand them the hedgehog. The minute the hedgehog hits their hand, they say “Ohhhhhhhhhh.” It’s that good.
The hedgehogs aren’t just a moment; they are a memory. At this point there are maybe 75 out there in the universe giving comfort and joy, sitting on people’s desks, etc. On Friday I was talking with a co-worker from a previous team. She was telling me how I’d given her two hedgehogs during reorg trauma; it had to be two because she has two kids and she knew fights would ensue if there was only one. Years later her daughter still cuddles them when she needs comfort.
And why does this matter? The business world is entirely comprised of human connection whether we recognize it always or not. What ails an individual, ails the system. We all can help by saying, “I’m not here to fix; I’m here for you.” And this medicine is so cheap, the prep is minimal, and the payoff is huge. Plus a drawer full of hedgehogs is priceless.
Find your own “hedgehog” or buy the Gund ones here. Full transparency: I tinkered and got an Amazon affiliate account in case this article takes off 😉 Proceeds will fund my book writing.