Gather round, readers! It’s time for a bit of holiday storytelling.

Long ago and far away, I was a young, hungry intern. I spent my days happily making copies, proofreading, stuffing envelopes, and filing documents. I worked my 20-year-old tail off, thrilled to be racking up skills I could add to my (rather empty) resume.

When the holidays rolled around, I anxiously awaited recognition for my hard work. I wasn’t expecting a huge bonus or gold watch, but I was hoping that one of my superiors would take a few minutes to acknowledge my contributions and the work I’d done.

So when I saw an envelope tucked under my keyboard on December 23rd, my heart skipped a beat. Was it a handwritten card from the clever boss I admired? A gift card to my favorite store?

Nope. It was a generic Christmas card with one hastily scrawled signature (an HR person I never talked to) and one Hershey’s chocolate bar.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that I was slightly less happy about stuffing envelopes and making copies from then on.

It’s always important to acknowledge our staff and their hard work – even more so during the holidays. If you’d like something a bit more engaging and personal than a Target gift card, here are six ideas to get you started.


1. Give them eight hours of paid time off

And then let them use it when and how they’d like. Maybe they’d like to leave two hours early, every Friday for a month. Maybe they want to take a Monday off to stretch that holiday weekend. Freedom and time are enticing, attractive, appreciated things – much more so than a bottle of wine or monogrammed towels.


2. Give them a personalized gift with a handwritten note

This is less doable if you have a staff of 40, but if you supervise a team of five you surely know their favorite books, television shows, and weekend activities. Buy gift certificates to favorite restaurants, tickets to events they’ve mentioned, books by favorite authors. A thoughtful $20 gift is more appreciated than a generic $100 gift. . . and a handwritten note thanking them for specific things shows you really, actually know them.


3. Buy something that benefits the entire staff, for the whole year

A fantastic espresso machine. Weekly at-desk shoulder massages. Catered-in meals on Fridays. Free dry cleaning. You get the idea!


4. Give them flex time or allow them to telecommute

If you can’t give your staff an extra day off, what if you allowed them to telecommute on Fridays? Or work four 10-hour days? Or job share with someone else? Can’t afford to do it all year? Then just do it for the month of January. Most of us want to feel more in control of our time and our work/life balance; they’ll appreciate you helping make that happen.


5. Help them with something you know is important

If they’ve been talking about hiking the Inca Trail, introduce them to your friend who hiked it last year. If they want to learn more about social media, organize a mentorship or find a conference they could attend. They’ll appreciate the personal investment you’re making in them.


6. Staycation

It’s always a hassle to choose a designated driver or find a cab post-party. Make it easier (and more fun) for your team by booking rooms at a nearby hotel. The whole weekend will feel special and luxurious instead of rushed and obligatory.

How do you thank your team for a job well done? Leave your suggestions in the comments – I’d love to hear what you’re doing!