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Best Holiday Gift for Employees Could Be a Simple ‘Thank You’

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by Birute Regine

A little appreciation can go a long way with employees. This holiday season, remind supervisors to stuff their employees' stockings with a simple "thank you" for a year of loyal service.

Year-end cash bonuses are great, too, but employees themselves say a pat on the back lingers long after they spend their bonus money or cook their company-supplied ham. In fact, in one study of IT workers, employees named the three top job motivators as personal thanks, written thanks and public thanks. Money ranked 12th.

Thanking an employee properly takes some time and thought. There's no such thing as generic, across-the-board, one-size-fits-all appreciation.

When giving something beyond an oral gift of thanks, managers need to discover what the employee would appreciate receiving as a token of the company's gratitude. Maybe it's a flexible schedule or more of a say in what goes on in his or her department.

There's no way to know unless you ask.

Also, remind supervisors that appreciation isn't something you do once a year during the holidays. It's something supervisors should practice every day.

It's not a technique; it's being aware, paying attention to what people are doing and taking a few moments to acknowledge it. It's not policy; it's personal. Employees are starving for this.


4 simple values


Four simple values, when routinely practiced in the workplace, can transform an organization's culture.

1. Appreciation. Asking employees what you can do for them is a powerful tool. People have a deep desire to contribute. They want to belong. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. If managers can engage that rather than exploit it, they'll be amazed at what their employees can do.

2. Mutuality, including mutual respect, mutual influence and mutual interest. It's a simple premise: Everyone deserves respect. Employees want to know that you value their opinions.

3. Caring. It's not a power word but it surely is a power action. When you care about what's going on in a person's life outside of work, you'll get so much more from that person in terms of loyalty and commitment. People with caring bosses stick around.

4. Authenticity. Do you allow your employees to be themselves at work? Or do you try to cram square pegs into round holes? Let your staff know that nobody will be demeaned for being authentic.

As the holidays approach, supervisors should take time to find out about their employees, one story at a time. Once they have this "relational intelligence," they can invite the whole person to work. What better gift could they give?


Birute Regine is a partner in Harvest Associates, a Cambridge, Mass.-based consulting firm specializing in organizational change. She is co-author of The Soul at Work. Contact: (617) 492-3082;  

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