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The best gifts to give in the workplace

So here we are near the end of December, many of us are caught up in the hustle and bustle of last-minute holiday shopping. If you are employed, you may be involved in workplace gift exchanges. Some people get stressed out about what to give the boss or co-workers. Many times we spend our hard earned cash on meaningless tokens given out of obligation. If you must participate in a workplace gift exchange, I'm a big fan of gift cards. Starbucks, Target or a nice restaurant in your area. And if you bake, cookies are always an office favorite.

When I honestly reflect on gifts in the workplace, I know what I'd really like to give and get. These gifts do not have a monetary value, so everyone can afford them. These gifts do not have a shelf life so they may be used at anytime. Here's my list:

The gift of humor: Laughter draws people together. Whether at work or with family and friends, take a minute to laugh together. Avoid laughing at someone ele's expense, but laugh. Laugh out loud. A hard belly laugh. Research has proved laughter has positive side effects on health, longevity and long term relationships.

The gift of listening: It's critical to listen carefully to what people say. Ask questions and seek to understand. You may not have all the answers or be able to solve the problem but a listening ear can ease the burden for everyone at work. Plato says it best, "Wise men and women speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. Listen more than you speak.

The gift of time: There's never enough time to get everything done. Instead of doing three things at once, mentally slow down and be in the moment with your boss or co-workers. (Yes, I'm talking to myself on this one). Give them your full attention. It makes them feel valued and you'll understand them better. Find time to set priorities and plan for the coming year.

The gift of thanks: Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Do you have a job? Even if you dislike the people and the work, you are fortunate to be employed. Be thankful for that. Be thankful for your support system, family and freinds who love you no matter what. Take a moment to send a card or verbally thank those who helped you in some way this year. Make it a practice to write down weekly or evenly monthly a few things you are thankful for. It will be amazing to look back on the list after one month or even one year.

The gift of prayer: You can always quietly pray for someone in your workplace, especially if they are going through tough times. You can also offer a celebratory prayer for someone experiencing good fortune. Either way, it takes your mind off of you and forces you to consider someone else. Pray for those who irritate you or those you find less than pleasant to be around. I know that's difficult, but there may be something else deeper going on with that person. Don't allow petty differences to get in the way of your professional relationships. Forgive them and move on.

My hope for the workplace in 2010:

  • May we celebrate our beliefs without apology and without offending another person.
  • May we communicate honestly and seek solutions to workplace disagreements.
  • May we ask for support when we need it.
  • May we offer to support someone else when they need it.
  • May we listen to a boss or co-worker and truly try to understand them.
  • May we forgive one another, even when we think the person does not deserve it.
  • May we avoid negative influences and the wagging tongues of gossip.
  • May we seek to grow, serve and be an example of love, truth and selflessness throughout the year.

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