COMING UP FAST: A SECTION FOR ENTREPRENEURS - Building to Last - It's the thought that counts

COMING UP FAST: A SECTION FOR ENTREPRENEURS - Building to Last - It's the thought that counts - DILEMMA: What do I give the staff for Christmas? Last year's internet hampers bombed completely. Most didn't receive them; others didn't like what was in them.

by PATRICK DUNNE, who works with 3i
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

DILEMMA: What do I give the staff for Christmas? Last year's internet hampers bombed completely. Most didn't receive them; others didn't like what was in them. The complaints were horrendous and the cost of dealing with the hassle was almost as much as the hampers. Perhaps I shouldn't even bother.

ISSUES: Why bother is a good question if you think the cost and hassle outweigh the perceived value. But is it really such a bad idea, or are you letting last year's cock-up get to you? Remember that staff will be expecting another gift this Christmas and they'll be hoping for an improvement on last year's fiasco.

Much has changed since paternalistic Victorian owners gave low-paid workers an item of food to ensure they had something of luxury for Christmas.

In today's post-voucher period, expectations are higher and gifts range from the carefully considered to the carelessly naff.

The worst I've heard was the boss who gave employees an ashtray embossed with the company logo, whether they were smokers or not. A definite winner of the fluffy slipper award! The best was the boss who bought each of his staff a different book that reflected their interests. It showed he knew and cared about them - yet the cost was minimal.

It is obviously much easier to choose appropriate and more personal presents in a smaller company. Finding a universally appreciated gift for a larger staff, and/or one that is diverse in age, culture and religion, is much trickier. Although many may not celebrate Christmas, it is a good working assumption that they will still want the present. Remember too that the effort you make may be valued more than the gift. When it comes to how much you will spend, don't forget distribution costs. You could also give cash, but this seems a cop-out - and is never enough.

ACTION

- Be clear why you are giving a Christmas gift - and don't be afraid not to.

- Decide how much you want to spend.

- Don't spend more on distribution than on the gift.

- Whatever the category, make it luxury and make the effort.

- Last but not least, why not just say it's all too difficult and announce that you will give a cheque to charity - and let the staff vote to choose which one from among three of your favourites.

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