I don't think you ever stop giving. I really don't. I think it's an on-going process. And it's not just about being able to write a check. It's being able to touch somebody's life. - Oprah Winfrey
December is a wonderful time of year to show your gratitude for others, but, for many, it's also a time that creates anxiety, particularly if you're on a budget - and who isn't? The most important thing to remember is what most people want are not things, but to feel genuine appreciation. I should also mention that waiting to the end of the year to show your appreciation is like waiting until the last mile of a marathon to have a drink of water. In either case, if you're still standing, it's too late. Be in a state of gratitude all year long and what you do in December will just be the cherry on top.
But, it is December, and if you're like many, trying to figure out the perfect expression of "thank you," here are a few suggestions to get you started:
A note, letter, or card. I'm convinced that there's no better gift than letting someone know why you're grateful for them. I would keep it specific and heartfelt. The chances are people don't know the impact they're having on your life. Also, think of the small things that get forgotten. Did someone on your team stay late and help someone else make copies for a presentation or get them lunch when they didn't have time to leave their desk? Pay attention to the small things and use this as an opportunity to show someone that you noticed and are grateful for it and for them.
Start a tradition. Start a legacy project or tradition with your team that can, hopefully, live on. It can be something you all do together like volunteer at a soup kitchen, distribute gifts to a local shelter, or run a race together. One year, a group of friends and I wrote "rainy day" notes that we distributed to coworkers under the condition that they open them during the year on a day when they needed some cheering up. Another tradition I like is creating "vision boards" (aka, Treasure Map, Visual Explorer, or Creativity Collage). The board is typically a collage of magazine cut-outs - photos or sayings - that symbolize what you're hoping to create as a team or individually.
Your time. One way to give of yourself is to spend time listening to someone else, but another way is to offer your time to help someone else during the year. Is a coworker getting married and needs help finding a florist? Can you spend some time doing research for them? Can you run an errand for someone or babysit their kids and give them an afternoon off? Think outside the box on how you can give of your time.
A book. For a small sum, you can say a lot with a book. It's a personal gift that says you've listened and understand the recipient. Think about your recipients and their life events for the upcoming year (e.g., trips, weddings, pregnancies, pets, etc.). A book will remind them that you're excited for them as well as they pursue new experiences and opportunities.
Charity. I love gifts that are an expression of giving in one's name. The holidays provide many opportunities from DonorsChoose to Be An Elf. Send a child a gift in the name of a coworker or donate to a charity of their choice.
A meal. Breaking bread together is a great way to celebrate and thank someone. Take someone or a group of people to lunch; perhaps even get approval to make it an early lunch where the team can leave work early and not have to return that day.
A gift card or personal gift. If you have some extra cash to spare and can afford a gift, make sure it's well thought out. The gift should show that you know your recipient. Therefore, try giving a gift card to a favorite store, a future endeavor, or something that the recipient would never do or buy for themselves.
So, what have been some of the best - or worst - work-related gifts you have received or have given?
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Based in New York, Anna Papadopoulos has held several digital media positions and has worked across many sectors including automotive, financial, pharmaceutical, and CPG.
An advocate for creative media thinking and an early digital pioneer, Anna has been a part of several industry firsts, including the first fully integrated campaign and podcast for Volvo and has been a ClickZ contributor since 2005. She began her career as a media negotiator for TBS Media Management, where she bought for media clients such as CVS and RadioShack. Anna earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from St. John's University in New York.