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June 24, 2018

Small Business Advice

Let staff know you appreciate and value them

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Jerry Osteryoung | 12/9/2012

The holidays are rapidly approaching and it 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 managers need 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; the important thing is that each employee 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 the biggest impact, the gift should be carefully thought out and selected for the individual. What will not work, for example, is giving each staff member a logo drinking cup. This just telegraphs that you do not really care about the staff member as an individual.

A holiday party is another great way to celebrate this time of year with your staff, and it is important that you extend the invitation to the family as well. Having a family event with all of the children and spouses is 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 is just not worth the risk.

There have been many cases where employees have had serious traffic crashes 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. 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.

Secondly, 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 an elaborate residence, which can create ill will.

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

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

You can do this!

Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at

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