In the month of December, we have Hanukkah (or Chanukah, depending on how you choose to spell it), Kwanzaa, Christmas and if you're a Seinfeld fan, there's Festivus for the rest of us. So when it comes to holiday cards, what do you do? Send a card for what you celebrate, what they celebrate, or just a card with "MERRY EVERYTHING!" to cover your bases? What used to be a sweet way to share greetings for the season has become a source of stress over the years. Some question if it's even still relevant to share holiday cards of any type given the rise of email and social media. Do we need a hand-written or paper card anymore?
The answer to everything is: it depends on your motivation, your workplace and your employees. Here's a litmus test to help you navigate holiday card etiquette:
Tip #1: What is your motivation? The first thing to ask yourself is why your business would want to do it. Is it religious? While there are no limits on an employer to witnessing with their customer base, federal and state laws do regulate the rights to witness with employees. Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 stipulates business owners and leadership are permitted to communicate their religious beliefs through company policies and practices provided 1) they do not give candidates or current employees the perception that employment or advancement requires workers to adopt a certain religious belief, 2) they accommodate employee objections and stop witnessing to any employee that requests it, and 3) they do not require employees to participate in religious worship experiences.
Title VII law only applies to government employers and private businesses with fifteen or more employees but regardless of the applicability of the law, ignoring employees' comfort level with religious messages can harm company culture, diversity and inclusion efforts. SHRM put out an interesting study on this for those interested in religion in the workplace.
Still stumped on what you can say that's not based on any specific religion? Here's 26 different messages you can use to send to your employees.
Tip #2: Make it personal. My parents always said if something was worth doing, it's worth "doing right." In my opinion, when it comes to sending cards, that means sending it in the way that will resonate best with the individual(s) you're sending holiday greetings to. Most of the people I work with and know want a paper holiday card and still enjoy receiving them in the mail. But each year, I ask: who wants a paper card and who prefers digital? For those that want the paper card, we send it along with a little note about our year. Everyone else gets a digital version. For employers, sending a paper card with a handwritten note from their supervisor or CEO shows a level of appreciation of the individual you're sending the card to. Quality time is a "love language" that isn't limited to personal relationships - employees appreciate the time invested in them as well, even on a small scale.
Tip #3: Ditch the generic "corporate card" for employees. While handwritten cards with personal notes from supervisors can mean a lot, the generic corporate card really doesn't... unless it's accompanied by a holiday bonus, consumables (eats, drinks, treats) or the gift of time. Remember performance bonuses are not a gift even if it's paid out around the holidays - they're tied to individual performance. Take the time to get to know your employees and what they're looking for. A pulse survey can help with that, but so can understanding your company culture and what employees value.
Whether you send a holiday card or not, make sure to thank employees that send you (or your leadership) one. Holiday and Christmas cards are part of a longstanding tradition of showing others they matter. When your employees show you matter to them, take the time to strengthen your culture by showing you appreciate it.
Just tuning into our 12 Days of Christmas series? Catch up here: