With the holidays approaching, gift-giving is on the top of many to-do lists. I love finding just the right gift for everyone on my list. I feel an (abnormal, no doubt) sense of accomplishment whenever someone reacts with a, “wow – how did you know?”

I start crafting my gift ideas months in advance and add ideas to my Evernote list whenever inspiration strikes. I guess you could call me Mrs. Claus. (I may be biased, but I always thought she was the brains behind the operation.)

Related reading: 10 reasons why I love Evernote

But to be honest, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with consumerism. I carry guilt about the wealth inequality around the world and in our own cities. I’m also not convinced we need to give expensive gifts to convey our appreciation.

On this note, I’ve been reflecting on the purpose of gifts: to symbolize our love and appreciation. Maybe we could show this appreciation in a more heartfelt, authentic and direct way. Maybe we could simply say thank you.

Sadly, praise is extremely rare in the workplace. The majority of employees report they have received zero recognition in the last year. Four out of five people don’t feel their supervisors recognize them enough.

This lack of recognition leads to lower morale, lower productivity and lower profitability. When you consider the ripple effect, it is shocking more leaders don’t commit to this simple act of conveying their appreciation. Forty percent of employees say they would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often according to research from recognition-focused company O Great One.

​”Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ​

William Arthur Ward

Sure, people often say “thank you” in passing, but when was the last time someone acknowledged you in a sincere and detailed way?

What if we took the lead in creating a more grateful workplace? Thankfully, there are some simple acts we can use to convey our gratitude, without buying anything.

11 ways to give the gift of appreciation – without buying anything

1.Greet people with enthusiasm

Let them know you’re grateful to see them – with your words, tone and expressions. We all appreciate a warm greeting.

2. Catch people doing things right

While it’s tempting to point out opportunities for improvement, savvy leaders focus on the successes. Leaders who emphasize more positive than negative interactions with their team have happier and better performing staff.

3. Praise in public

Tell other people about the great presentation a colleague delivered or a much-needed solution to a challenging problem a colleague was able to identify.

4. Create a team appreciation board

Encourage people to post special acknowledgements on a team board.

5. Establish an appreciation program

Enable team members to acknowledge one another through a formal (yet simple) program where they can send “thank you for ___” messages. Copy supervisors on these messages so the recognition can count for double.

6. Begin team meetings with appreciation

Encourage everyone to acknowledge others who helped them out. This will start your meetings on an infectious note of positivity which will spread throughout the week.

7. Write a recommendation

Without being prompted, write a LinkedIn recommendation. Or comment on their blog / social media page.

8. Write a personalized thank you note

This is so much more effective than an email. And clearly people appreciate these notes; 76% of people save hand-written thank you notes.

9. Offer to do a dreaded task for them

If possible, offer to step in and do a chore they dread as a sign of your appreciation. As leaders, it’s important for us to serve at times.

10. Spend time with them

In this rushed world we live in, pausing to truly to listen to someone can be the best gift of all.

11. Remember things that are important to them

Pay attention to events, ideas and places that are important to them. When you come across something of interest, share it with them. It’s another way of saying “I appreciate you”.

I hope these ideas inspire you to spread more appreciation. On that note, I wish you and your team, at work and home, a glorious holiday season. I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with you here.

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