Tough Times and Holiday Bonuses

Holiday stockingWhat do you do when you just don’t have the money in your budget to give the kind of holiday bonuses that employees expect and deserve? That was the question that a retail manager asked me during a training session a number of years ago. Because all six managers in this small company were present, we took the opportunity to brainstorm.

The problem: The managers had a budget of $50 per person for holiday bonuses. Their employees typically received around $200, but sales were down and it just wasn’t possible that year.

The solution: They decided to limit the bonus checks to $20 and use the balance to buy small personalized gifts for each employee, gifts that would fit into a holiday stocking.

They spent their off hours shopping and wrapping. They hired one of the manager’s daughter to write, in glitter, the name of each employee on a stocking.

Late one evening, they stuffed the stockings with the gifts and checks, and then they hung the stockings in a narrow stairway that led up to the employee break room. They headed home, still worried that employees would feel cheated by the tiny checks.

The next morning the six managers entered the office uneasy about what they would find. They headed for the break room and were surprised to discover their employees sitting on the stairs, unwrapping gifts, laughing, and sharing their surprises with each other.

Employees loved the personal attention that went into their gifts. They knew they were valued in spite of the size of their checks. It truly made their day. In fact, they talked about their holiday “bonuses” for months to come.

Copyright 2007 Cindy Ventrice


My name is Cindy Ventrice. I am the author of the best-selling book Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works and the companion guide Recognition Strategies That Work.

My work has been quoted in The New York Times, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Workforce Magazine, and Tim Sanders' book The Likeability Factor.

Visit my website today!

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