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‘Tis the Season to Re-gift

Posted by Elaine Varelas  December 6, 2010 08:00 AM

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by Elaine Varelas

As the holiday season approaches, many organizations are looking for ways to celebrate on a budget. Some companies are hosting toned-down holiday parties or forgoing the festivities altogether. Many managers and leadership teams are also abstaining from gift-giving as well. Maybe in this time of belt-tightening, we should consider re-gifting this year!

Typically, re-gifting takes all of the fun out of opening presents (If your Aunt Julie didn’t care for the vase she got at her 1983 wedding, what makes her think you’d like it?). Re-gifting at the office can also be a no-no. While most of us wouldn’t mind getting the keys to the CEO’s vacation home on the Cape, we could do without the hastily-wrapped tote bag left over from the corporate golf outing. Is it ever okay to re-gift at work?

Yes. There are some gifts that are guaranteed to be beloved by all employees no matter the age, sex, or shoe size of the recipient. HR managers can help identify these gifts by thinking about what they most want from leadership. If you could ask your leadership team for ANYTHING to make your job better, what would it be (minus the six figure bonus and summers off with pay)? If you could sit on Santa’s lap, whisper in his ear--and poof--you get your wish, what would you ask for? What do you need from the corner office to do your job well? I wish leadership would:

Tell me everything--I can’t do my job well if I am only getting part of the story. Leadership needs to be candid, honest, and forthcoming in all of their communications so I am armed with information and can respond quickly. This transparency should be spread throughout the organization so that employees know where they stand and can get on with their work.

Trust me--Trust is the foundation of any positive working relationship. Have faith in me that I will do my job, and do it well. I want this company to thrive and I am invested in it’s success. Let’s work together towards that same goal.

Acknowledge I have a life outside of work--I love my job, but I also need some down time. Please don’t expect me to be on-call every weekend. If I don’t respond to an e-mail you sent late Saturday night, please don’t call my house at 7:00 am on Sunday. While I don’t mind staying late once in a while, I would also like to have dinner with my family too.

Stop berating me--Yelling is only acceptable behavior if the building is on fire or there’s a half-price sale at Tiffany’s. Please do not scream at or belittle me alone or in front of others. And don’t look the other way if other managers berate their team members. Inflammatory language or even raised voices should never be tolerated in the organization.

Take care of your problem child--Please don’t take the easy way out and ignore that manager who is causing problems for employees. As a leader, you need to take action before it gets out of control. Also, if I come to you with a problem, please address it. If I have the courage to bring it up, please don’t push it aside and hope it goes away on it’s own.

Stop being a hater--Please do not tolerate any form of sexism, racism, or any other intolerant behavior--ever. Put a stop to it at the first sign, even if you are worried about being labeled too PC.

Say thank you, and mean it!--Please recognize me when I’ve done a good job and be sincere about it. There is nothing worse that a forced thanks (except maybe none at all). You also don’t have to be stingy with your accolades. I will gladly accept a “thank you” for delivering a report or making a phone call for you. You don’t need to withhold your appreciation for big projects only.

Wouldn’t it be a “wonderful life” if you actually got all of these things on your leadership wish list? You could be so productive! You’d love going into work everyday! The best part about receiving these gifts from leadership is that you could pay-it-forward by re-gifting these precious gems to all of the employees in the organization.

As HR managers we have the opportunity to make it happen. Work with the leadership team to make these gifts part of the foundation of the organization. Let leaders know that these basic tenets are important to the morale and retention of employees, not to mention the vitality and the success of the organization. Train managers so that they have the tools they need to work and manage within these parameters. When HR managers can ensure that these principles are followed throughout the organization, they have a gift that’s worthy of re-gifting.

Elaine Varelas is Managing Partner at Keystone Partners, a Boston-based career managment company. She can be reached at

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