It's that time of year again -- the time when managers everywhere scramble to figure out what to give their staffs as holiday gifts. As the recipient of some pretty lame gifts myself (a six-pack of incense, a gift certificate to a fried-chicken place about 30 miles from my home, a cheap plastic snowglobe that leaked all over my desk), I thought I'd offer some suggestions about how to hit the right tone with this year's goodies.
- Play favorites. Even if your senior team member pulled the lion's share of the weight this year, a fancy holiday gift isn't the way to reward this. To avoid envy and friction, set the same dollar amount for all staff gifts and stick to it.
- Opt for inappropriate tokens. Big no-no's: perfume, intimate apparel, heavily scented items -- scent is a very individual preference, and some people are even allergic to certain smells -- or subjective items like art.
- Try the one-gift-fits-all approach. Unless it's cash, one particular item won't please everyone. And it looks like an afterthought.
- Be tone-deaf about culture and religion. A Jewish employee may not welcome a box of smoked bacon, and giving a clock to a Chinese co-worker signifies death.
- Check with HR first. Some companies have dollar limits on gifts or other rules about gift-giving.
- Try to find something unique, yet appropriate, for each person. Putting a little thought into it can go a long way for team morale.
- Keep the gift-giving low-key. Don't make a big production of handing out the goodies -- you're not Santa. And some people are embarrassed about receiving gifts in public.
- Think twice before buying for the boss. Unless everyone is doing it, it can come off as brown-nosing or jockeying for favor.