Giving Differently

Christmas is the hap-happiest season of all.

Well, it is usually.

But this year, thanks to the global pandemic, tidings of comfort and joy seem to be in short supply. Especially if you’re a business owner. Truthfully, the news hasn’t been very comforting and many business leaders don’t have much to be joyful about.

Andy Williams reminds us Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year.” But for some companies, it may feel more like survival mode.

Obviously, not every business is feeling the same pain, but the ongoing lockdowns and resulting job losses have impacted us all to some degree. Undoubtedly, Christmas 2020 will feel considerably different than last year when, fueled by a record-breaking economy, shoppers in 2019 splurged to reach a total of $1 trillion in holiday spending.

But not this year.

In fact, many business leaders are telling me they’re not able to give their employees a traditional Christmas bonus. And as good bosses, they’re feeling terrible about it. Their staff is like family to them, and they know how much workers look forward to the bonus.

Is there an alternative to handing out the usual year-end gift?  

I believe there is. In the Christmas song “The Little Drummer Boy,” a poor lad wants to give a present to the baby Jesus. He sees wealthy folks giving gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But he’s penniless. What can he give that’s fit for a newborn king? You may recall, he simply plays his drum. It doesn’t cost him a shekel, and it was the most memorable gift of all.

Why was his gift so special? Because it was from the heart.

Maybe this year, leaders need to focus on what they can give, not on what they cannot. Giving takes many forms, and although we might not have as much profit from which to give this year, we can still give our teams gifts from the heart that add value to their lives.

A few examples include:

  • Extra days off in 2021
  • A personalized Christmas card to each staff member
  • Gift cards accompanied by a handwritten thank-you note
  • A staff dinner that includes spouses

Warning: My next suggestion might step on some toes. Ready? You could reduce your own salary, and distribute the savings to your staff.

Now, you may be asking, “Why on earth would I do that?” Because “It’s better to give than to receive.” The baby king in the manger taught us that over 2,000 years ago. It’s still true today.

As leaders, we set the tone and the example.

The great French physician, Albert Schweitzer, said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others — it is the only thing.” This year, show your staff that true success comes from giving what you can. Be honest with them. Tell them that you can’t compensate them in the usual way this year, but you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make them feel valued and appreciated. Then follow through.

Although 2020 has been fraught with countless challenges and uncertainties, I have seen leaders become more caring and generous … and teams become stronger and more loyal as a result.

You may not be able to afford a financial bonus this year, but you can give your employees something invaluable.

This year, be the gift you wish to receive. Merry Christmas!