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Opinion Editorials

5 holiday gift ideas that will have your employees feeling valued

(EDITORIAL) The holidays are a great time to foster internal camaraderie and team spirit within your staff, including making your employees feel valued.



Office Holiday Party: Being valued idea 1.

The holidays are a great time to foster the internal camaraderie and team spirit within your staff. One of the best ways to do this is by making your employees feel valued. There are many different ways to do this. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.

Start with the Right Questions

Before we discuss specific ideas, it’s important to start by asking the right questions. A few of the most important include:

What is your budget? Do you have a certain amount of time, money, or other resources that you can commit?

What are your employee’s shared interests? Make sure not to hone in on what would make one or two members of your staff happy at the expense of the interests of others.

Are you working in person or remotely? The current state of your office post-pandemic (remote, hybrid, or in-person) can have a big impact on how you show your employee appreciation.

Alright, once you’ve set some parameters, review the list of ideas below for some employee-focused holiday fun. And before you assume that these are boilerplate recommendations, think again. Sure, they revolve around common themes such as gifts and gestures, but each one focuses on a different creative or practical element that is ideal for the post-pandemic work environment. Oh, and don’t feel like you have to follow each option to the letter, either. Instead, use them as jumping-off points. Tailor them to your particular situation.

Two people looking at laptop in office for wrapping gifts.

Okay, ready? Let’s do this!

1. Brew Up a Classic

If you’re after a gift option and want to keep it simple, you can’t go wrong with coffee. A bag of coffee beans has near-universal appeal.

If you’re a smaller operation, you can even address each employee’s selection individually. If certain individuals don’t drink coffee, feel free to tailor the gift. Opt for tea or hot chocolate for the coffee-averse.

Coffee is also a good gift that adapts to the current times, as well. If you’re back in the office having in-person workdays, you can give your employees a bag of high-quality coffee right at their desks.

However, if you find that your teamis working remotely from different areas, you can adjust. Look for a good coffee subscription to send your employees. You can even pick one that is adjustable so that your employees can choose their own preferences.

Coffee being porched from pitcher into cup on table: Valued idea 1.

2. Get Something Silky

The next item on this list is great for any boss or team leader looking to find an out-of-the-box idea. Something silky is a great gift option for a few different reasons:

Silk is a diverse material that is used in everything from pillowcases and pajamas to scarfs and even eye masks.

There are many benefits of silk, such as helping with anti-aging or skin hydration. This gives it the appeal of a thoughtful gift.

Silk adds a certain luxurious aspect to any gift. If you give your employees a silk-themed gift, it can add a certain sense of finesse to a normal gift item.

Silk may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to classic gifts. However, its trending appeal, many benefits, and variety of uses make it a unique way to show your employees that you care.

3. Give Some Time

If you feel like you don’t want to go the physical “gift” route, you can always opt for something even more valuable: time. Consider giving your employees an extra day or two off around the holidays this year.

By shutting down your business around the holiday season, you can show your employees that you value their time with their families.

Removing your business from your employees’ lives for a little longer can be less splashy on the surface. However, it can pay you back with interest in the form of loyalty and goodwill toward you as an employer.

4. Give Thanks and Shout-Outs

One of the simplest ways to give your employees a sense of value is to state it. Directly. To their face — or at least a computer screen during a Zoom call.

There are a couple of ways that you can do this. First, there’s the general “thank you” approach. This doesn’t have the same instant impact as a bag of coffee beans or a silk scarf. Nevertheless, the simple act of thanking your employees for their hard work can do wonders on their morale and their perspective of their workplace.

The other option is to engage in direct shout-outs. These should be targeted and specific. Don’t single out Larry and then start talking about how he’s “just been such a good worker and a great guy all these years.”

Instead, find real ways that each employee has impacted your company in a positive way. Then start dropping these shout-outs at random times to cultivate that happy, satisfied feeling amongst your employees.

Multi-member Zoom call on a Apple Mac laptop with a blue mug of black coffee next to it: Valued idea #4.

5. Do Something Together

Sometimes the best way to make someone feel valued is to spend time with them …outside of the workplace. If you feel that your team can use some fun social time together, look for a way to do something as a group.

Now, there are a few things to take into consideration here. First, try to do this on company time without disrupting workflow (i.e. plan ahead) if you can. It’s a tall order. But if you ask your employees to give up their valuable free time — around the holidays, no less — the request is going to come across as an inconvenience rather than an appreciative gesture.

It’s also important to adapt this “group activity” mentality to your circumstances. For example, if you’re all together, go out for a meal, head to a bowling alley, go to the movies, or even volunteer in the community.

If you’re working remotely, set up a group watch party session where everyone can tune in together to enjoy a holiday classic. You could also set up a time to play some online interactive games together over a Zoom call.

Two people in an office prepping to wrap gifts.

There are plenty of ways to show your employees some appreciation this holiday season. You can show your recognition through tangible gifts like coffee or silk. You can acknowledge your staff through shout-outs and verbal thanks. You can show them that you care through extra time off or even a group activity or an online game night. Whatever makes them feel the most valued!

Whatever you choose, make sure to remember those criteria questions. Don’t follow your own interests or the desires of a few. Consider what gift or activity will truly make your entire staff feel valued and seen this holiday season. That way, you can start next year with everyone in a positive, healthy, engaged state of mind.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Opinion Editorials

How to sound more confident in your next interview or office email

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) After COVID, collectively, our social skills need a little TLC. What words and phrases can you use to sound more confident at work?



Interview with woman and a man opposite as they each sound more confident/

In-person work communications are on the rise, and it’s no surprise that, collectively, our social skills need a little bit of work. CNBC shares some examples of common phrases people tend to use when uncomfortable – and what you should use to replace them to sound more confident in your next interview or office email.

After explaining a personal philosophy or situation, it’s all too common to say, “Does that make sense?” Aside from occasionally sounding patronizing, this question more or less implies that you believe your worldview or lived experiences to require validation. CNBC suggests saying “I’d like to hear your input” or – if you’re in an inquisitive mood – asking “What are your thoughts?” instead.

This invites the interviewer to give feedback or continue the conversation without devaluing your own perspective.

CNBC also recommends getting rid of weak introductions, listing examples like “For what it’s worth” and “In my opinion” in order to sound more confident. Certainly, most of us have used these phrases to recuse ourselves from perceived criticism in meetings or emails; the problem is that they become an indicator of lacking self-confidence, at least for employers.

Simply jumping straight into whatever it is you have to say without the soft-paws introduction is sure to be appreciated by higher-ups and colleagues alike.

Passive voice is another thing you should remove from your communication when trying to sound more confident. For example, saying “I performed this action because…” instead of “This action was performed because…” shows ownership; whether you’re taking credit for an innovative decision or copping to a mistake, taking responsibility with the language you use is always better than removing yourself from the narrative.

“I’m not positive, but…” is yet another common phrase that CNBC eschews, opting instead to start with whatever comes after the “but”. It’s always good to maintain a certain amount of humility, but that’s not what this phrase is doing – it’s getting out in front of your own process and undermining it before anyone else has a chance to evaluate it. Regardless of your position or responsibilities, you should always give your thoughts the credit they deserve.

Finally, CNBC suggests removing perhaps the most undervalued phrase on this list: “I’m sorry.” There is absolutely a time and place to apologize, but “sorry” gets thrown around the office when a simple “excuse me” would suffice. Apologizing in these situations belies confidence, and it makes actual apologies – when they’re necessary – seem hollow.

The language people use is powerful, and as arbitrarily contrite as the workplace may inspire many to feel, humility can absolutely coexist with confidence.

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Opinion Editorials

10 tips for anyone looking to up their professional work game

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s easy to get bogged down by the details, procrastinate, and feel unproductive. Here are a few tips to help you crush your work goals.



work productivity

Self-reflection is critical to a growth mindset, which you must have if you want to grow and improve. If you are ready to take your professional game to the next level, here are some stories and tips to help you remain focused on killing your work goals.

1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the quote goes. And, in the workplace it’s bound to make you second guess yourself and your abilities. This story explains when comparison can be useful, when to avoid it, and how to change your focus if it’s sucking the life out of you.

2. Burnout is real and the harder you work, the less productive you are. It’s an inverse relationship. But, there are ways to work smarter and have better life balance. Here are some tips to prioritize your workload and find more ease.

3. Stop procrastinating and start getting sh@t done. The reason we procrastinate may be less about not wanting to do something and more about the emotions underlying the task. Ready to get going and stop hemming and hawing, you got this and here’s the way to push through.

4. Perfection is impossible and if you seek this in your work and life, it’s likely you are very frustrated. Let that desire go and learn to be happy with excellence over perfection.

5. If you think you’re really awesome and seriously deserve more money, more responsibility, more of anything and are ready to drop the knowledge on your supervisor or boss, you may want to check this story out to see if your spinning in the right direction.

6. Technology makes it so easy to get answers so quickly, it’s hard to wait around for things to happen. We like instant gratification. Yet, that is another reason procrastination is a problem for some of us, but every person has a different way/reason for procrastinating. Learn what’s up with that.

7. Making choices can be a challenge for some of us (me included) who worry we are making the wrong choice. If you’ve ever struggled with decision making, you know it can be paralyzing and then you either make no decision or choose the safest option. What we have here is the Ambiguity Effect and it can be a real time suck. Kick ambiguity to the curb.

8. If you are having trouble interacting with colleagues or wondering why you don’t hear back from contacts it could be you are creeping folks out unintentionally (we hope). Here’s how to #belesscreepy.

9. In the social media era building your brand and marketing are critical, yet, if you’re posting to the usual suspects and seeing very little engagement, you’ve got a problem. Wharton Business School even did a study on how to fix the situation and be more shareable.

10. Every time you do a presentation that one co-worker butts in and calls you out. Dang. If you aren’t earning respect on the job, you will be limited in your ability to get to the next level. Respect is critical to any leadership position, as well as to making a difference in any role you may have within an organization, but actions can be misconstrued. There are ways to take what may be negative situations and use them to your advantage, building mutual respect.

You have the tools you need, now get out there, work hard, play hard, and make sh*t happen. Oh, and remember, growth requires continual reflection and action, but you got this.

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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?



leadership Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are maybe a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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