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Best Holiday Work Gift? Kindness, Attention, and Feedback


“What we all really want at work — even if we overlook it or refuse to admit it — is some kindness. Some attention. A little feedback that lets us know we’re doing something right.”

I wish I’d written these words but they were actually written by Rex Huppke and published over the weekend in the Chicago Tribune.

Kindness has been only occasionally explored in work-place research. But what we know is that kindness at work works. Would you rather be someone who is deemed kind or someone who is thought of as insensitive and boorish? Easy answer. So, what can you do to be deemed kind? Bringing co-workers bagels, snacks, lattes, or other treats always lightens the mood, as does verbal compliments,  kindhearted advice for new hires, holding the elevator door for anyone, and having a sympathetic ear. Emphasizing your kindness during the holidays – when most people feel stressed, overworked, and overwhelmed with home obligations – is a brilliant (and free) gift for anyone in your office.

The power of getting attention at work is actually what started the entire field of organizational behavior. The experimental research that tipped this idea was the infamous Hawthorne Studies. Sadly, the research is infamous due to the many flaws that plagued the studies. Despite these flaws, since the 1950’s when the term “the Hawthorne Effect” was coined, there has been a growing awareness that attention at work is remarkably important. Today, managers and supervisors are likely aware that ignoring employees’ concerns leads to turnover, low morale, disengagement, and the perception of preferential treatment whereas paying attention to employees can, at least temporarily, increase performance. Over the next month, pay close attention to the needs (both tangible and emotional) of employees and raise their positive feelings about you and the work they do.

Finally, feedback is one of the most powerful tools that can be used at work. Research shows that individuals who get feedback EVERY WEEK are happier and more productive. Genuine feedback, that is both specific and supportive, is the ultimate work gift. When feedback is both kind and attentive, an authentic connection is made between the giver and the receiver. The giver has positively noted, and then verbally expressed, a specific action or activity performed by the receiver. This communication demonstrates both the giver’s kindness and attentiveness. How do you express feedback best? Are you a note writer or a pop-by-their-desk kind of person? Consider how you can make it easier on yourself to give frequent and meaningful feedback during the holidays.

Purchasing the perfect, tangible, work gift may not be a realistic goal. Giving the intangible gifts of kindness, attention, or feedback signify your appreciation of the person and the work that they do. This is a goal within reach. Happy Holidays!


To read the entire Chicago Tribune article see:

To learn more about getting regular feedback go to:


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