Gift Giving at Work

Over the last year, workplaces have been beset by layoffs, spending cutbacks, time crunches and a lurching economy. In this uncertain climate, what happens between colleagues, bosses and subordinates on the job can affect a worker’s emotional health even more than usual.

Complaints about workload, stress, lack of communication and feeling unappreciated are usually symptoms of a breakdown in workplace relationships. Keeping interactions healthy and collaborative can be a full time job.

Given this, we’d like to suggest some gifts to give in your workplace this holiday season:

1. Give the gift of appropriate resources.
A top complaint from many workers is frustration over being unable to perform their best due to inadequate supplies, lack of clear direction or lack of supervisory time from bosses. Make sure shipping has the stuff to ship, the repair department has the parts and there’s a fall- back position if something goes awry. Letting workers down by not providing them with the tools to satisfy demanding customers, leaves everyone feeling incompetent and leaves the company with a potential loss of business.

2. Give the gift of laughter and irreverence.
Build camaraderie – lighten up! Though the business of making a living can take on serious overtones, don’t forget, you’re not alone, everyone’s doing it too. The work-a-day world can be a grind if it’s allowed to be. So, pull out the rubber chicken, loosen your grip, and look for the ridiculous-you’ll be sure to find something silly at work!

3. Give the gift of recognition and credit.
People often make the assumption that workers just work for pay- cheques and long weekends. This view misses part of the picture – the part where employees work to derive purpose and self-worth. Sure, money goes a long way in making a job seem worthwhile, but job satisfaction is also pegged to being appreciated. Saying “thank you”, “great job” or “I couldn’t have done it without you” makes a big difference. Once superb performance has been acknowledged, blow that person’s horn, talk them up and help them reap the emotional rewards of a job well done.

4. Give the gift of follow-through and follow-up.
Be dependable. That goes for employees and employers. Leaders, managers, bosses and supervisors set the tone at the work site. When you make commitments to subordinates by promoting new initiatives or systems, keep at it. Nothing deflates morale like abandoning a great idea – your great idea. Neglecting what once was a big priority makes it harder to win over a jaded workforce with your next “great idea.” Once an initiative is off the ground, follow-up on assignments in a timely manner or workers will be less inclined to take the project seriously.

5. Give the gift of adequate training for the job.
Invest in your workforce’s intellect. Maintain a commitment to continuing education at work. Relying solely on employees’ previous training gained in school, whether technical or people-skills oriented, is a mistake, especially in an economy where the skills that are in demand change constantly. After formal training, learning does not stop and taking a developmental approach pays dividends in a more inspired, pro-risk and creative staff.

6. Give the gift of participation and initiation.
An easily fixed workplace problem is the “after you” phenomenon, where workers wait to see what everyone else is going to do before stepping in to give an opinion, offer an idea or solve a problem. So, consider taking charge more. Refrain from hanging back, waiting for others to go first, playing it safe or watching for someone else to do the right thing. Speak up. Give an opinion. If you see something being neglected, take the initiative and pick up the ball.

7. Give the gift of making promises carefully.
An off-hand “I’ll handle that” to satisfy an immediate need or to reduce uncomfortable feelings like fear and guilt is a no-no if the deadline can’t be realistically made. Think through what you are taking on before committing to it. Saying “I’ll do it” to impress others is less effective than committing to complete a task. Asking yourself if you can do something within the time helps you be reliable. If you can’t re-negotiate the deadline, terms or scope of the project, you might not be the one for the job. It’s better to manage your workload and be seen doing so competently, than get a reputation as the office pleaser, or martyr.

8. Give the gift of managing your responses.
People believe that they have far more control over their public persona than they generally do. In actuality, there is little separation between who workers are at home and who they are at work. Procrastinators put things off no matter where they are. The chronically late are usually late for work most of the time. Slobs at home are generally messy at work too. Take time to figure out what is contributing to your signature behaviours –habits that may be undermining your effectiveness or driving co-workers crazy. For example, do you blowup easily, mess-up your office, abuse other people, or beat yourself up? When? Is there a pattern to these incidents? When are you most likely to procrastinate, explode, be late or fail to use your filing system? Figure out different ways to handle situations that may tempt you to fall back into old habits.

9. Give the gift of patience with yourself and others.
< Patience can be in short supply at many workplaces. Taking the view that people are trying their best, and working with them to accomplish a task will lower everyone’s blood pressure. Patience can make a delay seem shorter and more manageable.

10. Give the gift of free samples.
It’s important not to be miserly with your time, attention and good will. In our strapped world, conservation makes sense – except when it comes to doling out things necessary for healthy relationships. While it might take more energy to show caring for a co-worker than to buy an expensive gift, it’ll be appreciated all year long. So, this year consider giving samples of caring, kindness and helpfulness – on the house.

Dr. Jennifer Newman and Dr. Darryl Grigg are registered psychologists and directors of Newman & Grigg Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development partnership. They can be contacted at sunmail@newmangrigg.com

Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.

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