I ask you, does anyone really want a keychain or a jolly paperweight?
In these economic times, gifts in the workplace might not be necessary or expected, but they remain common—and often stressful for both giver and receiver.
To the gift givers I offer this advice: Think first. If you have to give the same thing to everyone, keep it smart, simple and useful. Nobody wants to think the company is wasting money on something that will be dropped in a drawer and forgotten.
If you can personalize your giving, try to remember conversations with the intended receivers where hobbies, goals or family were mentioned. You don’t want to be the equivalent of the boss in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” who gave a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club.
Better to give something that is an immediate reflection of the gift giver as well as the recipient. At the risk of sounding obsessive, I recommend keeping a staff journal throughout the year as a reference to specific successes and interests. A budding writer might find a journal beneficial, a travel enthusiast would appreciate a book about exotic destinations, and an avid coffee drinker would enjoy a local coffee shop gift card or festive coffee beans.
The most interesting gift Mark Thacker of Propelis Consulting received from a client was a book about his faith. That’s a tricky line to walk, but it worked for him.
“My faith means a lot to me,” recalls Thacker. “[The client] listened enough that he thought about the gift.”
Susan Elser of Elser Financial Planning LLC likes to keep gift giving simple and tasteful.
“When I want to send a gift, typically I send a fresh white flower arrangement. It looks nice in a room with any color scheme and seems to be appreciated by all.”
While money spent is less important than the thoughtfulness put into it, know that employees and business associates will chat in passing and perceive value differences between the gifts. Ask yourself: What message am I sending by giving what I give?
On the other side, remember that the recipient has a responsibility, too. Giving gifts isn’t obligatory, but acknowledging a gift received should be. And gratitude is mandatory.
My recommendation is always to open gifts privately. But if that isn’t an option, be sure your emotions are in check and be mindful of your facial expressions. No matter what the package contains, show appreciation for the thoughtfulness and generosity shown. Even a joke gift needs a thank you (even if accompanied by an appropriate eye roll).
And, of course, send a thank you note.
Sara Johnson, leadership and executive coach at Perspective LLC, writes thank you notes to employees all year long. They aren’t forced. She simply takes the time to recognize hard work and results when they happen. But in this season for giving, she also offers an office volunteer day to build camaraderie and celebrate the season together. If such an event is scheduled for your workplace, participate with the appropriate spirit of the season.
And just remember that, while it may be better to give than to receive, how you do both says a lot about you. Happy holidays!•
Adelowo is the founder of ImageCube LLC (www.imagecubellc.com), and a certified image consultant of the Association of Image Consultants International. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.