Homemade fruitcakes, company-embroidered memo pads, oversized sausage baskets, generic greeting cards with entirely too much glitter and Christmas socks: These are the gifts I remember from typical year-end, holiday seasons in business.
Without a doubt, we have all become much more creative in our holiday celebrations and gift-giving, when it comes to professional colleagues. There are still a bunch of great traditional ideas which, when executed properly, can provide an inexpensive and much more meaningful holiday memory than that coffee mug you are considering.
Give handwritten notes.
While your lobby or cubicle may boast holiday greeting cards hung in symmetric harmony, at the end of the season they will all be tossed out and forgotten. Instead of sending a generic greeting card this year, consider creating a unique handwritten greeting for those colleagues who are important to your business. Not sure what to say? Consider one of these approaches:
- Thank you. For those who help you daily in your business (and are largely responsible for keeping the entire operation from burning to the ground), offer a genuine and sincere "thank you" for all the work they have contributed over the past year.
- Hello. For those with whom you do not regularly correspond, reach out, say "hello" and offer a heartfelt wish of prosperity and success for the future. Also consider ending with a call to action, such as a promise to talk in person in the new year -- just make sure to follow through.
- Compliment. For anyone who has recently reached a goal or is currently working toward something personal in his or her life, give a sincere compliment and recognition for this person's achievement or accolade, as well as a gesture of support and encouragement.
- Inspiration. For everyone else, a simple handwritten message of gratitude and well wishes will demonstrate that he or she is important enough for you to have taken the time to pen a personal message.
In addition to being handwritten, these gestures require personalization and sincerity. Without both, it is just another generic greeting card.
Give time off.
The holidays can be hectic, especially with countless events, parties and socials leading up to Christmas and New Year's Eve. Because of this, consider giving your employees a paid day off in the middle of the week, when stores and other activities are less busy. Your subordinates are probably distracted while multitasking personal and work-related year-end tasks, so the extra time will be appreciated by them and may even benefit the business.
No employees? Consider giving yourself a day off. If you have business partners, agree to swap days, allowing each of you to have a day away from the responsibilities of the office. Are you caught up on your shopping and and looking for something to do on a day off? The new episode in the Star Wars series, Rogue One, releases December 16. Just saying.
Give gift certificates for kids.
As a dad, a big challenge I have is finding (and affording) gifts that are meaningful for my kids while satiating my parenting inclinations (and guilt). Typically, the best gifts my kids receive are from godparents or relatives, who look at the task from an outside perspective (and are willing to give Pokemon versus chemistry sets).
While I may turn out to be the uncreative dad who still gives holiday sweaters, I am still happy the kids received something unique and memorable (with little effort from me).
If your colleague has children, consider a gift for his or her kids. Be careful and avoid gifts that are too personal or otherwise may offend your colleague (a Nerf gun for a family with strong views against guns, for instance). As an alternative, offer a gift recommendation with a gift certificate.
Give an experience.
We all get a little overwhelmed by work responsibilities and neglect important time for ourselves. When we do get time, it is usually at the end of a long week. Making entertainment decisions can be yet another burden our energy-depleted minds cannot handle.
Consider giving the important colleagues an experience, such as a pre-arranged dinner and movie, or tickets to an improv or comedy club or cooking lessons. If your colleague has kids, also consider providing a gift certificate for a trusted babysitter for the evening, so the adults can actually indulge in the adult experience. Not only will this gift avoid the accumulation of meaningless holiday clutter around the office, it will give the child's parents something they will cherish much more -- a memory.
In the end, all of these gifts require you to truly know and understand your colleagues. They require you to inquire and listen -- leadership traits great leaders master anyway. More than just the actual gift, your gesture will demonstrate a personal and relatable characteristic that will endear you -- much more than your Christmas socks.