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Merry Christmas???

leadership development

For many businesses the time leading up to Christmas can be very busy….. lots of work to get done, lots of orders to fill, lots of deadlines to meet. Most of us are just counting down the days till we can have a little time away from work. But it is also a season when we traditionally show gratitude and caring for the people around us…. As well as spreading the traditional “Christmas Cheer”

Sometimes we put a lot of thought into how to thank our customers or our suppliers or the people who refer us work. We want them to know they are important to us, to feel good about the dealings they have had with us this year and to want to work with us again next year.

But what about the people who really keep your business going… your most valuable business asset…..the people who work for you!!!  What did you do for them this Christmas?? How did you acknowledge their contribution and make them want to work with you again next year??  Let’s check the list of things employers usually offer at Christmas:

1)    some sort of office party during work hours

2)    some sort of after work activity where people may have “drinks” or a meal

3)    a token Christmas “bonus”

4)    a “bulk”  Christmas email…. Standard for everyone in the organisation

5)    An opportunity to go home early on the last working day before Christmas

Now, while there is nothing essentially “bad” about any of these….. you need to think about how there are received by your people. Let’s go back to the “goal” of these actions….. To let your people know that you appreciate the work they have done for you this year, that you value their contribution and look forward to working with them again next year. In order for any “gesture of recognition“ to be well received three conditions have to be present in the eyes of those who receive it:

1)    your gesture has to be perceived as being SINCERE… that you know what they have done for you and that you GENUINELY appreciate that person’s effort. If you have treated them badly all year and suddenly everyone a small automatic Christmas bonus and a bulk distribution “cheerful” email this is not likely to be effective and may even generate bad feeling.

2)    That the gesture is something they APPRECIATE. Offering a night time dinner event will not be appreciated if they have been working long hours for weeks to get out the Christmas orders and they just want to go home on time. It would also not be the favorite alternative if there is a great deal of disharmony in the team and they couldn't stand to spend another minute together or with the manager who has been treating them badly all year.

3)    It has to be something that does not cause unwanted CONSEQUENCES. Having a party in the middle of the day will not be appreciated if everyone has to stay late to deal with the work they could not do while they were standing around pretending to have a good time at the party.

If you are going to appropriately recognise the work your people do for you then there is not easy generic solution…. It must be sincere and appropriate to each work situation and each person. Give it some real thought… maybe encourage supervisors or managers to be more involved in “fitting” the recognition to their own team circumstances. You could even ask the team what would be meaningful for them. Take the opportunity for you to show your team how you value them and make them feel like they do matter as people and not just cogs in the business system.  Here are some ideas that will help you start going:

  • Send a personalized greeting card.  Don’t just create a generic one.  Jot down a short message of greetings for that specific employee and sign them by hand. Distribute them on time, with a smile and a few genuine words of thanks to each person.
  • Try using gift coupons.  Choose something that your employees will appreciate based on your knowledge of them as a person…. From the knowledge you have been building during the year through your frequent one-on-one development meetings.  You can give them a voucher for a massage or maybe a dinner for two or a voucher for some books or a gardening shop voucher.  No matter what you decide on, make sure you think about how your employees can benefit from your gesture.
  • If it is a busy time make sure you consider your people as they work hard. Acknowledge their effort, make sure they take enough breaks, see what you can do to support them and be reasonable with your expectations.
  • If you are staying open over the Holiday season make sure those who are working are well supported, maybe can start a bit later or have a bit of flexibility. 

If you find this advice challenging then the good news is you have a whole year to pay attention to putting some of these suggestions in place before next Christmas. But remember…. Start early as everything will depend on the work you do building the right kind of relationship with your people throughout the year.

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