The spirit of giving that flows among family and friends this time of year also spills into the workplace, with some businesses giving employees gifts and some leaders also showering staff with tokens of appreciation.
It's best when employees feel valued year-round, but most people will accept any form of gratitude whenever they can get it.
The same way it can be challenging to pick a gift for a relative or friend – unless they've dropped hints – it must be for executives trying to select a gift that will appease every employee.
I recall one year a company gift of a padded tote with a thermos and plaid blanket tucked inside. I guess the idea was it would be perfect for a chilly night at an outside stadium for a sporting event. I was not impressed. Initially.
But at some point, I pulled that blanket out and fell for its warmth and comfort. I like to joke that it's my Linus blanket.
That blanket has been used many nights and travels with me nearly every time I pack a suitcase. It's kept me warm on airplanes and at places ranging from Chicago to California and from Aruba to the Dominican Republic the past 30-plus years.
It's probably among my top five favorite gifts from workplace ties. I've had some pretty nice ones the past 20 years from The Journal Gazette, including a set of drinking glasses with images of published newspaper pages engraved, a red and white Sherpa blanket and a zip-up gray sweatshirt with the newspaper name embroidered in white. The latter was last year's gift and I've worn it at least 20 times this year. (When working remotely during a pandemic, you can get away with wearing something twice the same week.)
I was curious what others would classify as their best gift – from a leader or supervisor. My unscientific poll was carried out on Facebook.
• Connie Elaine Scott, who works in Fort Wayne, was first to reply. She said time off for the holidays and understanding travel plans and possible bad weather were the best gift.
Sometimes, I think, we underestimate the value of the intangible.
• Jenn Mesenbrink, who I worked with in Rockford, Illinois, said the “most fun” was a snack pack from the Dean & Deluca store chain. “It had six pretty jars of unusual snacks like dried wasabi peas and pistachios that I then kept in my desk for hunger emergencies.” And there was another gift she fondly recalled: A $100 Amazon gift card.
• Bobra Crockett, who I grew up with in Danville, Illinois, thought back to a contract she had with the Chicago Bulls organization when Michael Jordan was an NBA champion. Jordan, Crockett said, “wrote a letter of recommendation for me when I worked in media relations for the Bulls.”
• Cathy Ward, another former Rockford colleague, recalled her best gift in one word: Waterford.
Other journalists I worked with also chimed in:
• “Not technically a gift, but I still remember those wine and shrimp Christmas parties,” Edie Lee said in her post.
• “Bonus of 10% of annual salary,” posted Charlene Gunnells, who has also worked in media relations. After a follow-up query, she noted that was “a long time ago and we don't make so little anymore.”
• Loretta Horton, who I enjoyed being in a book club with, said a bottle of her favorite red wine was best.
• Former Danville acquaintance Lauri Starks recalled entertaining gifts: Tickets to see “Les Miserables” on Broadway, and Jazz at Lincoln Center seeing Wynton Marsalis.
• And Jennifer Foster, who I attended high school with, says her best was probably a “day of feasting. Breakfast, snacks and lunch provided for the school staff with festive music and plenty of decorations.”
Maybe you'll get a gift from an employer or supervisor this year that you don't particularly like.
Wait a few days or weeks. Give it a second look – like I did my blanket. If you find you're still not impressed, give it to someone who might appreciate it.
But just think about it: there's no law that says an employer or supervisor owes you a Christmas gift. If they make the effort, be grateful.
To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at email@example.com. Lead On also appears online as a blog at www.journalgazette.net/blog/lead-on.