Why Giving Gifts Will Disappoint Your Employees During The Holidays

2 min read
Dec 16, 2014

iStock_000000235020_SmallHave you ever thought of giving your employees homemade laundry detergent? What about a toothpaste squeezer or camouflage toilet paper? We hope not, but those are actual holiday gifts employees have received, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder.com survey.

However silly those gifts may be, they do bring up a good point: what is an acceptable gift to give colleagues and employees? Should you even give gifts at work? What will your employees think if you do give them gifts?

We think your employees will end up disappointed. Sure, they may appreciate a couple of free coffees or a new mug, but they actually want more. And we don’t mean a bigger gift. They want recognition and feedback from you, and that doesn’t have a price tag at all. Many times, saying “thank you” to an employee is worth so much more than a gift.

Now, this will obviously depend on your organization. If you have a healthy, frequent recognition model and communicate openly with your employees, go ahead and offer a token of appreciation. But, most organizations could use a better recognition model, so managers use gift giving as a way to “thank” their employees around the holidays. This is when your employees will inevitably feel disappointed.

So, if you aren’t sure whether you should give gifts this holiday, here are three questions to ask yourself:

What do I hope to accomplish by giving gifts? Do you want to boost morale around the holidays? Sure, that’s a great reason to give a gift! Do you want to recognize employees for working late and putting extra time on a recent project? Think again on giving that gift. A present with no note does not convey “Thank you for all your hard work.” 

What is the context of this gift giving? Is the whole office participating in a secret Santa or white elephant exchange? In this case, gift giving becomes less of a token of appreciation and more of a fun office activity. This is a great reason to give gifts to employees.

When is the last time I thanked my employees? We really want to drive this point home: gifts do not and should not replace a “thank you.” If you can’t remember the last time you personally thanked your team, go for a holiday card rather than a gift. Take the time to write a personal note to each employee thanking him or her for specific things.

We’re not saying that gift giving should be banned at work (we like gifts as much as the next person). We’re just highlighting the fact that most of the time, gifts are used to thank or recognize employees, and that is when gifts fail. So, before you start shopping for a toothpaste squeezer, make sure you’re giving gifts for the right reasons.


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