Office gift giving can be especially fraught when work dynamics come into play, and by some accounts, employers are missing the mark.
That's according to a new report from Snappy, a corporate gifting platform, which surveyed over 1,000 U.S. workers to get their thoughts and experiences around receiving holiday gifts from their employers.
The survey answers revealed that many companies don't have a firm grasp on what gifts their workers would really appreciate: 84% of workers say they've received a gift they didn't want, and nearly 90% have faked a positive reaction to a bad one.
Some of the worst corporate gifts employees have received, according to survey responses, include:
- A book on how to be better at your job
- Melted chocolate coins
- A tourniquet (a device that applies pressure to a limb to limit blood flow)
- A seat belt cutter
- Quail from a boss's hunting trip
- Season tickets to the CEO's son's little league
- A quart of milk
- Old stale cookies
- A toy horse
- Deli meat
A lackluster gift can send a lasting negative message, Snappy CEO and co-founder Hani Goldstein says.
"In my opinion, implementing this process in the wrong way, and giving people items or experiences that they are not interested in, is a missed opportunity to engage with your team members," Goldstein tells CNBC Make It. "Sometimes, it's also a waste of resources which can do damage to the relationship you are trying to build with your team."
Despite the majority of workers saying they've received bad gifts, they do want the recognition of a job well done. Four out of five employees said receiving a holiday gift from their employer would make them feel more appreciated and motivated at work.
Positive recognition can also be crucial to employee performance and retention. According to one survey, 60% of people said they value recognition as much as money, and 40% said they'd put in extra energy at work if they got more recognition.
The small seasonal gesture could also have a large impact on company culture. A recent Glassdoor survey found that 56% of workers rank a strong workplace culture as more important than salary. An office culture that values employee recognition could lead to better worker satisfaction and productivity overall.
"Although many companies perceive recognition as a costly nice-to-have, it's an absolutely necessary investment," Goldstein says.
Even high-profile entrepreneurs understand the value of thanking employees this time of year. "Shark Tank" star Kevin O'Leary's go-to gift is simple yet universally desired: Money.
"My favorite gift in the holidays is an envelope full of cash. Everybody loves that. They really do," O'Leary told CNBC Make It, adding that it's also his holiday gift of choice for business colleagues and even family and friends.
"I've never given a wad of cash to an employee or a friend or a family member that wasn't met with a big smile," he said. "Cash with a rose on the envelope? Ooh-la-la!"
If liquid cash isn't on the table, Monster career expert Vicki Salemi suggests gift givers stick to the thoughtful, but not-too-personal, territory.
"Ask yourself if it's something you'd like to receive," Salemi told CNBC Make It. "Even if it may feel generic, chances are that'll be a good gift." The ultimate test: The gift should be something that shows appreciation.
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