Real Presents


What do you long for at this time of year? When thinking of gifts that you would like to get at work it’s probably not a new mug or key chain. The real gifts you want probably have more to do with the intangibles like appreciation, acknowledgement and credit for a job well done. But there are other workplace gifts that make sense and are of a more complicated nature. These include job requirements based on basic human needs such as the desire for control and autonomy, the need to be doing something meaningful and the need to belong and the need to contribute.

Here are some important workplace gifts you might like to give or get this season:

Control and Autonomy

The need for this powerful gift is why micromanagement gets under most worker’s skin. The need to make some independent decisions about things like schedules, how work gets done, what to prioritize and who does what is key to worker involvement. This doesn’t mean that decisions that belong in the hands of management are made by consensus. This is an abdication of responsibility. Rather, it means finding the places where worker control is necessary, efficient and helpful to the overall objectives of the company.

Giving the gift of control and autonomy where appropriate and to the right people will boost morale and increase productivity.

Meaningful Activity

Fed-up workers who are feeling as though they are in a make-work program or are finding the work they are doing does not fit with their values will lack meaning on the job. This leads to disengagement and frustration. Once a worker checks out it’s hard to get them to reinvest in the job. Finding meaning in one’s job is essential to well-being and workers need to see the relevance of their role to the whole organization. If they understand how their contribution fits in, they will make better decisions about where to put their time and energy as well as feeling like they are worthwhile. Feeling valued means knowing how what you are doing fits into the big picture. A big gift to give to employees is to help them connect their role to the organization’s mandate or mission. This can mean discussing strategy with workers and helping them understand why the company does what it does and why it makes the decisions it does. Misunderstanding ones role or not connecting ones work to the overarching goals of the business means the company is missing out on employee innovation and initiative.


There’s nothing worse than putting effort into something and having the feeling that the rest of the team is working together while you are a stranger in their midst. Not belonging can crush worker initiative and many respond by quitting or doing their own thing. In today’s economic climate, worker’s who feel they don’t belong may hang-in doing very little because they see no reason to contribute. Offering workers the opportunity to belong is important otherwise alienation and isolation set in. Welcoming new employees can be hard when teams have worked a long time together but managers need to be sensitive to introducing a new person fully, describing their role and endorsing their involvement. To just let a new employee make their own way without structuring the situations properly is a recipe for exclusion.


Making a bona fide contribution and seeing how important one is key. Feeling invisible, feeling that one’s contribution goes unnoticed or is taken for granted can destroy employee good will towards the company. Mattering to the company is an essential need for workers and if they feel they don’t matter they will sabotage the company in the worst case or disengage in the best case. Either way, companies can ill-afford to ignore worker contributions big and small. A big gift to give to employees is to help them see that you notice their contribution and treasure it.


While having a laugh at work is important to making the day go faster, it’s more about finding joy. A bleak existence at work where one plods through the day with nothing to spark energy grinds workers down ensuring burn out and listlessness. While you can’t necessarily make everyone have fun, the tone set at work that this place is not taking its self too seriously is key.

Peaceful Relations

The best way to enjoy work is to be engaged with people with whom you feel comfortable and who don’t bear grudges or let things fester. A human need often overlooked is that the relationships at work need to be stable, predictable and non-eventful. While this may seem boring, it’s a basic need to know what to expect and how to read situations. If people are volatile, hard to understand, have hidden agendas or are just plain difficult, workplace peace is impossible. The ease of being around people you feel you know well creates a relaxed atmosphere and is conducive to productivity. Knowing you can depend upon someone, they are reliable, consistent and “there” for you can have a calming and settling effect.

This holiday season, consider making a gift of worker needs to your employees, discuss what they would like to see happen next year at work and your efforts will net happier workers and better performance.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year.

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