One of the challenges for the mindfully ethical leader is finding ways to connect during the holiday season without violating gifts and entertainment limits or making the other person uncomfortable. How can you give this season without running afoul of ethics policies?
Both at work and at home, we often give gifts to establish or strengthen our connection with others. This means that gift-giving is a reflection of both the giver and receiver. Giving a gift to someone we have a relationship with allows us to communicate our feelings and appreciation for them.
It turns out that all sorts of studies, from social psychology to functional neuroimaging, present real and solid evidence for the benefits of giving gifts. In other words, we might rescue ourselves from the holiday blues if we stop to recognize everything the act of giving gifts can do for us.
In fascinating research, it was found that in the standardized assessment of individuals who both gave and received gifts, greater happiness appeared to rest in those who gave. Even more interesting, it was found that among employees who receive bonuses, those who made charitable donations with the received bonuses were measurably happier.
So, what can you do to help fend off holiday blues and engage in a psychologically protective act of giving while not triggering your corporate policies? Try giving things that are free, such as the examples below.
A handwritten letter
The beautiful art of writing a letter by hand has nearly been lost. In an age of instant gratification where an email or text is a second away, the effort that goes into a heartfelt note is palpable. To make sure your note hits the mark, think of a great memory or lesson you learned from the recipient. Express what that moment and the person mean to you, why you appreciate them and some of the longer term impact that your interactions have had on your life. Present something positive in your note and it will give the recipient an instant dopamine boost.
Giving a bit of yourself and your culture has many benefits. In a world of disconnection, finding ways to connect with others through iconic recipes both unites and educates. If you are feeling extra ambitious, consider compiling several favorite recipes and turning it into a mini book. This is good for the recipient and also can be used year after year within your own family. During this season, many of us wish prior generations were still here to share their wisdom. Consider this as a way to expand the influence and care from your own family of origin in an ever-expanding ripple. If you don’t have special family recipes to share, find something that you like to cook and share that as a marker of your favorites — again expending energy to unite.
A personalized playlist
A customized playlist filled with songs that are unique is a gift that keeps on giving. For those of us who have favorite styles of music or listen to something regularly during workouts or other activities, a playlist is a great way to evoke memories, feelings and unite with someone. We have seen this with celebrities and politicians putting together playlists, with summer camps doing the same, etc. Perhaps you will put together the best ethics and compliance playlist of 2022. Give it a try and you may just make the pick-me-up highlight of the season.
Instead of a pricey present, consider doing something meaningful for a recipient or for the entire community. Many senior leaders in the compliance and ethics profession have regularly paid it forward by helping others prepare for interviews, connect with people or set up networking events. Consider being a mentor, taking the time to help new entrants to the profession or people who are #opentowork.
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A donation to a meaningful cause — and a social boost
A final way to give in a pay-it-forward way is to donate to a cause meaningful to you and share the news within your circle. You can connect it to something you feel passionately about or a cause that resonates. Remember that donating can mean giving of your time, your talent and/or your treasure. Whether it is a day spent helping feed others, using your creative talents for the benefit of an organization or a monetary donation, all of these efforts help nonprofits during the holiday season and throughout the year.
With so many ways to meaningfully give without tripping up corporate gift limits, I hope that your holiday season is filled with the gift of community and mindful giving.