Employee Morale

How to Really Thank Your Employees

Taking the crew to lunch once a year between Thanksgiving and Christmas doesn't make up for taking them for granted the rest of the year.
How to Really Thank Your Employees
Image credit: Tom Merton | Getty Images
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At this time of the year -- every year -- we’re told to give thanks. And, of course, we should. We should be thankful for the bounty we have, for the great country we live in, for our family, for our health, for Netflix and for free delivery, assuming you’re an Amazon Prime customer. These are the things that make our lives better. We are truly, truly thankful for them.

And, of course, as business owners, we’re thankful for our employees. We're officially in the holiday season, so that must mean that we give employees bonuses and days off. We hold holiday parties with fun activities for the family and organize “secret Santa” gift-givings. We love our employees, and this is the time of year to really show how much we appreciate them.

Related: How to Thank Your Employees Like You Mean It in 3 Simple Steps

Or is it? Should we be thanking our employees at the holidays? I’m not so sure.

If you want to hold a holiday party or give year-end bonuses, that’s entirely up to you. But where is it written that an employer has be Santa Claus just because it’s Christmas time? Who said that we have to dole out bonuses, buy presents, shut down our operations and take the whole staff out to lunch this time of year? You’re doing this just now? Something seems wrong about this.

I’ll tell you what’s wrong. There are 11 other months in the year! You’re not going to make up for your bad attitude, bad work conditions, bad compensation and bad smell just by treating your people to a holiday lunch at the local tavern. Showing appreciation during the holidays is as fake as a Hallmark movie -- except for “Christmas with Holly,” which can make even an angry, grown man like me cry.

Related: Why Saying 'Thank You' Is More Important Than Giving Employees a Raise

Do you really want to thank your employees? Then don’t be so kind and grateful and magnanimous just because it’s the holidays. Be this way throughout the entire year.

Pay them above average. Offer them more flexibility and more paid time off. Spend a little extra for a good healthcare plan. Create a reasonable bonus strategy. Allow them the freedom to work from home. Send them on professional training to improve themselves. Bring in a pizza or two on a Friday. Give to their favorite charity. Help them organize a summer softball team or participate in a winter basketball league. Employ their kids, if that's reasonable.

Help them with their student loans. Give them constant feedback. Hold regular reviews. Promote them. Compliment them. Teach them. For God’s sake -- just talk to them -- and all the while make sure to provide an open, airy, bright, fun and relaxed place to spend eight to 10 hours of their days doing something that in all likelihood they would prefer not to be doing.

Related: How Startups Are Building Strong Office Cultures

Every season should be the holiday season. Don’t just show your thanks now. Show your thanks throughout the year. You’re a business owner, not Santa Clause. You don’t have to wait until Christmas to show your appreciation. You can show it every day just by being a better employer.