The Best and WORST Holiday Gifts


End-of-year giving is a great tool to engage your employees and ensure that the new year starts off with a bang, but not any gift will do. You need to offer something that will have a lasting impact on your team while steering clear of items that can cause more harm than good.

Our list of best and worst gifts is designed to help you do just that.

The Worst Gifts for Employees 

Insufficient Gift Cards/Cheap Gifts

If you’re looking to give a gift that will boost your employee engagement level, stay away from cheap gifts. Not working with a large budget? There are other ways you can leave a lasting impression (which we’ll get to later in this post) without giving someone a set of cheap pens with the company’s name on them. You should also avoid giving your team gift cards with a balance too low to make their desired purchase. For example, refrain from offering a $40 gift card to a restaurant that would cost $100. It just places an additional burden on your employee.

Alcohol & Food

You can hold on to those holiday hams. The U.S. workforce is changing dramatically and so are their dietary preferences and restrictions. If your boss insists on handing out food, stay away from items that can cause an allergic outbreak. This is especially true of nuts, which could cause an employee to go into anaphylactic shock just by coming into contact with the food.

Additionally, unless you know the employee very well, you might want to refrain from passing out alcohol. Some people only drink a particular type of alcohol, other’s religions prevent them from drinking, and you never know who might be in recovery.

Toiletries/Beauty Products

You should stay away from any gifts that could imply you’re dissatisfied with a person’s appearance. After all, nothing says “you look and smell bad” quite like a bundle of soap and beauty products. Additionally, many workers are allergic to certain chemicals in fragrances, makeup, and lotions. Stay clear, or you might literally give your team a headache.

The Best Gifts for Employees

Heartfelt Thank You Cards

There are gifts you can give employees even if you’re working with a small or non-existent budget. One of the most effective is heartfelt thank you cards. We’re not talking a generic card with the word “thanks” on it and a quickly scribbled signature. Write something meaningful. If possible, list a specific reason why you’re so thankful the employee is part of your team and mention an example of their contributions.

Gifts for the Family

Chances are the majority of your employees have families they go home to after clocking out. If possible, include them in your gift-giving efforts as well. If you don’t have a budget to give a family-sized gift, consider mailing a holiday card to the employee’s residence thanking the family for their contributions as well.

Instant Award Cards

The gift that will make the strongest impression and engage your employees the most is one that’s deeply meaningful for them. Since you can’t read everyone’s mind, the best reward to give is often an instant award card. Employees can redeem these for an item they love, and every time they use or see it, they will likely think about the organization that made it possible.

This connection is why C.A. Short Company is proud to offer instant award cards as part of our People Are Everything platform. They’re not just limited to the holiday season either. Our instant award cards are great to use year-round, anytime you would like to reward an employee for:

  • Going above and beyond
  • Helping their fellow employees
  • Reflecting the values of your organization
  • Achieving a career milestone
  • Preventing safety incidents and creating a safer work environment
  • Focusing on their wellbeing
  • Birthdays
  • Exhibiting excellent customer service

There are more reasons than we can possibly mention in this post, but if you’d like more information about the benefits of instant award cards and how your organization can use them, reach out. C.A. Short Company has been in the employee engagement and recognition industry for over 80 years, and we’d love to show you the difference we can make at your organization.

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C.A. Short Company partners with companies to manage, drive and facilitate increased employee engagement to increase financial performance, productivity, quality, and core performance outcomes. Our process and research-based platform enables executives and managers to engage their teams to increase the bottom line, motivate staff, and incentivize positive behavior. To Request a Complimentary Consultation, click here. 

Topics: Employee Recognition, Employee Engagement, Instant Award Recognition

R Scott Russell, CRP, CEP

About the Author
R Scott Russell, CRP, CEP

R Scott Russell is a video host, public speaker, and a sought-after thought leader in the world of employee engagement and recognition. At C.A. Short Company, he is responsible for producing engaging content, helping clients maximize the effectiveness of their programs, and providing ongoing training and education.