The informant worked as a CPA-Partner for Ernst & Young LLP and just recently retired in January. He had been working there for thirty-one years, since he graduated college in 1980.
The informant just recently retired at the beginning of January so I thought he would have some good Ernst & Young retirement folklore. He described to me the retirement party thrown by only the other Partners for a retiring Partner. These retirement parties always take place at the California Club in down town Los Angeles and only the Partners of the firm are allowed to attend. All the Partners gather at this party and honor the retiring Partner. Each Partner, if he or she wishes, says something about the retiree, something they really valued in him or appreciated from years of dedicated work. Almost everyone expresses how much they will miss the retiree, and how much he made an impact on the office. It is traditional to provide the retiree with a gift of some kind. The informant received a silver Tiffany serving platter. In return, the retiree usually provides those honoring him with a little token of some kind. My informant assembled a booklet of some of his photographs with inspirational messages on how to live a successful life. At the end of the evening, the retiree is toasted and gives a speech to the other Partners, thanking them for their hard work and support over the years. After this, the Partners slowly trickle out, congratulating the retiree as they depart. After the informant described the party, I followed up with some questions about this experience.
Me: After working at a company so long, what does this little retirement ritual mean to you?
Informant: It was uh, important to be recognized for my contributions to my fellow Partners.
Me: Does Ernst & Young LLP do this type of thing for everyone?
Informant: For all the retiring Partners there are variations of a type of recognition event. The gifts vary and there are some differences in the toasts depending on the particular person.
Me: Why do you remember this ceremony of sorts? Why do you like it?
Informant: Because all my friends were there, and they all had such nice, appreciative things to say. Ha ha, it’s nice to hear.
Me: Why does the company do this for each retiring Partner?
Terry: Because they want to maintain a good relationship with the retiring Partners because it could mean future business for the firm. And it’s a good chance to get all the Partners together from the office. When you celebrate success, it breeds success.
These retirement dinners seem to be an important way of celebrating many years of hard work. Essentially, I understood this little ritual to be about acknowledging all the effort an individual has put into their work and recognizing the fact that it has paid off. The dinners are a way of celebrating hard work, but also, when it’s someone like my informant who had worked there for thirty years, celebrating a type of life. It’s a gathering of people who aren’t just co-workers but friends. It’s a way to pleasantly shut the door on one time in a person’s life and open another new and exciting one.