In high school, I was what you would call a floater bee. I didn't have a clique I belonged to so much as I floated around among all of the groups of athletes, music aficionados, and future dramatists like a cheerful little worker bee.
My voice was hoarse for most of high school as I cheered people on from the sidelines and in the stands. I shook pompons with vigor during the winter, and in the fall, I encouraged my high school football team to 'go long' as I charted yardage statistics as a football stat girl.
Many years post-high school, and as a friend and a colleague, I'm now a consummate cheerleader. I'm the friend offering encouragement from a crowd and serve as the cheerer of successes. I'm usually the one standing up and clapping with reckless abandon when someone wins an award.
I am a Jerry.
If you're not familiar with Jerry, he's one of the breakout stars of Netflix's docuseries, Cheer. Before you roll your eyes and take a pass on reading the rest of this, hear me out.
The series covers the people and the training leading up to a national event for the Navarro College Cheer Team out of Corsicana, Texas. Regardless of your opinions about cheerleading, what's significant about the show is the people. Most of the people you get to know through the six-part series have had some pretty rough childhoods. They all fight their personal demons, but what keeps everyone from having full-blown breakdowns amid brutal and bone-breaking practices is something called: Mat Talk.
In its simplest terms, mat talk is cheering and hyping people up.
Mat talk is the equivalent of the pat on the back you wish someone would give you as you drag your tired self into another day of work. It's the round of applause you wish someone would provide as you scramble to get everything done ahead of schedule and under budget. It's the acknowledgement that you are, in fact, a good person and your contribution really does matter.
As the person who covers a lot of workplace issues for Food Processing and our parent company, Putman Media, I see a lot of reporting from news outlets, institutions, and agencies about the collective mindset of the current workforce. We're tired. We're feeling under-appreciated and overworked. We're lonely and our mental health is taking a beating.
While we wait for adult naptimes to become a real thing, surges in our paychecks to appear, and added help for our production and our mental health, couldn't we just engage in a little bit of mat talk? Watch the short clip below and watch Jerry himself mat talking people as they walked into work. I dare you not to feel inspired.
So, whaddya say? Let's be more like Jerry at work.