Recognize your staff for the holidays

December 14, 2012 

The holidays are rapidly approaching and it is so important that each entrepreneur and manger recognizes how much this time of year means to their staff and their respective families.

For many people this can be a very stressful time of year, and every manager needs to take this opportunity to reach out to each of their employees with some gift or token to show them they are appreciated for who they are and what they do for the company. It does not have to be an expensive gift, as the important thing is that each employee just feels recognized and appreciated.

One way of doing this is sending a handwritten note to each employee telling them what their contributions have meant to the business. You can even take it one step further and send a handwritten note to the significant other as well saying how much you appreciate their sacrifice in terms of the time the employee must spend away from the family.

A note is great, but giving a gift is even better. For it to make the biggest impact, the gift should be carefully thought out and selected for the individual.

A holiday party is another great way to celebrate this time of year with your staff, and it is so important that you extend the invitation to the family as well. Having a family event with all of the children and spouses is so neat and it really does send the message that the organization cares about the staff and their families.

For me, the idea of a party gets scary when alcohol is involved. The liability the business must assume when serving alcohol is very high and just is not worth the risk.

There have been so many cases where employees have had serious auto accidents when leaving one of these functions, and the business was held partially liable. I have also seen too many cases where serving alcohol at a business function revealed some unprofessional behavior that ended up being very damaging to the employee and the business. Bottom line is, if you can avoid serving alcohol at business functions -- especially holiday events -- the better off you will be.

My final recommendation about holiday parties and any social function involving staff is that it not be held at your home. So many entrepreneurs feel that inviting their staff into their home shows their warmth and openness. However, this is not good policy for a couple of key reasons.

First, there needs to be a clear separation between the business owner and the staff. Once this is bridged, it creates confusion about whether this person is my boss or my good friend.

Second, in the case of entrepreneurs who have very nice homes, employees may begin to feel that they are working just to keep their boss in their elaborate home, which can create so much ill will.

For both of these reasons, it is worth the money to hold the function in a public venue rather than your personal home.

Now go out and make sure you do something to recognize each of your staff members this holiday season.

Jerry Osteryoung, the Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship emeritus, can be reached at

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