In countless offices and shop floors, holiday parties soon will begin. People will celebrate, perhaps in a more subdued way, the camaraderie of the business and the general sense of peace and goodwill to all.
Sometimes gifts are exchanged, or employees contribute to a gift tree for the needy and ill in the community. This season, managers and supervisors have a great opportunity to give some truly meaningful gifts to their employees. First, however, we need to set the scene for these meaningful gifts.
The Bible tells us three sages journeyed from the East to follow an unmistakable heavenly sign, a star that heralded the birth of a king. Their journey took them to the court of King Herod, the stand-in local authority for the Romans in Palestine. Herod evidently was not aware of this heavenly sign, or had not paid attention to it. So he was startled at the news someone greater might have been born in his own royal backyard.
Since Herod was no help at all, the sages continued undeterred to the place where the star shone brightest, a small cave in a little town called Bethlehem, where a baby lay in a manger. Humble a setting as that may have been, these three wise counselors knelt before this newborn member of royalty to offer honor and homage, and to give three gifts. They were gold, for a king; frankincense, a rare spice fit for a holy person; and myrrh, a balm for a dignified burial.
The story has been told throughout the ages because it communicates a fundamental truth about life: we honor people as we give them gifts to affirm their importance and to remind everyone that managers and supervisors can’t do their jobs without the support and enthusiasm of those who work for and with them.
Give employees full appreciation for work done. Take some time to cite specific ways employees have contributed to the value of the organization or enterprise. Let them know how important they are as individuals and teams to the success of operations. Effective managers know they might look good if they took the credit for accomplishments, progress, innovation or cost savings. But they look better if their employees shine in the limelight. The gift of appreciation and sincere, personal thanks can go a long way to building a strong and effective enterprise.
Then, keep employees in on all business developments. We honor people when we trust them. It’s always odd that managers and supervisors think they have to withhold information about company performance from employees because of "competitive concerns" or because "it’s not important to them." People are willing to sacrifice or to go the extra mile when they are given clear, honest and compelling reasons why their work matters and how it makes a difference. Our economy increasingly is built on knowledge and information. Managers and supervisors give good gifts to employees when they share information and build knowledge throughout the entire organization.
Finally, provide employees with sympathetic concern for personnel problems. Managers and supervisors don’t like to be counselors, but the best of them are coaches and cheerleaders. Employees don’t necessarily want managers to solve their problems, and many don’t want to slack off or make excuses for their own or others’ lack of performance. What they do want is for managers and supervisors to listen and to care, and to give them the tools to solve their own problems—or to intervene when that becomes necessary.
Perhaps this year will be the opportunity for people in workplaces to celebrate what really is important in a humane and effective workplace: reliance and dependence on each other for achievement and success, intelligence and commitment to further the company’s welfare in the marketplace, and the importance of each person’s contribution to the value and worth of the enterprise.
You don’t have to be a sage from the East to follow the star, and you don’t have to be deterred by selfish and small-minded royalty to journey to the place where the star shines. You simply have to be a wise person, an open-hearted and open-minded manager, and a humane individual to realize the most important gifts are not tangible or financial. They’re found in the human spirit and in the true gift we give to one another: faith and trust in one another, and an opportunity to celebrate the contributions we make to the value of the business—and to our lives. IBI