By Jeff Shane for BioSpace.com
In the office, the professional methods of communication are generally pretty clear. Pick up the phone, shoot a quick note by email, or make a visit to someone’s office. However—during the holiday season—many employees wonder “Should I send members of my management team some sort of holiday greeting card? If so, is it appropriate to dash off an email with holiday wishes, or is a traditional paper card the way to go?”
Reference-checking firm Allison & Taylor says yes, it is definitely a good idea to send your boss (and his or her boss) an appropriate holiday greeting. It’s an important way to send the message that you value your relationship with the company, and respect these people as individuals. (Additionally, surveys have shown that they are widely appreciated in the business world as a whole; recipients are more likely to do business with a company or individual that sends holiday greeting cards.)
When it comes to e-cards, Allison & Taylor suggests you forgo them for a variety of reasons. Many senior managers are older and may reflect an “old school” mentality. A greeting card sent via electronic means may be regarded by them as inappropriate, perhaps even cavalier. Additionally, such e-cards also tend to lack the “personal touch” of a card mailed individually to the boss’s door; e-cards and social media holiday greetings are often sent en masse, or (in the case of social media greetings) can be done as spur-of-the-moment responses to a comment seen on Facebook or some similar venue.
Here are some reasons why a traditional greeting card is a good idea:
1. Connecting with your bosses (or a former boss) will help keep you top-of-mind in their awareness, translating to possible future support or opportunity.
2. Staying in touch with bosses and colleagues via a holiday card is a subtle yet highly effective form of networking. (It’s also less expensive than taking them to lunch, and won’t violate corporate edicts if sent via personal mail.)
3. Sending your bosses (also former bosses, colleagues, suppliers, etc.) a card demonstrates a personal touch to accompany your business relationship.
4. Staying in the favor of your prospective employment references (particularly former bosses) is critical to your future employment success. The reference-checking firm of Allison & Taylor notes that approximately half of all reference checks they conduct reveal negative input from the references. Consider that a greeting card could prove to be a small, but critical, investment in your professional future.
5. Developing and maintaining positive relationships with your management team, coworkers and former bosses will ultimately be a cornerstone of success in your career. Besides the use of greeting cards, there are a number of effective etiquette tips that may be appropriate for those who may ultimately become your professional references (click here for more tips).
Tips for sending the right holiday greeting card:
While sending out holiday cards is almost certainly a good idea, even this generous gesture can backfire if the proper protocols aren’t observed. Here are some additional guidelines to ensure your card is well received:
1. Choose a high-quality holiday card that allows no possibility of offending its recipient. Remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas—be mindful of religious and cultural nuances, particularly with your international recipients.
2. Choose a design that is appropriate for your business associates.
3. Keep your contact list accurate and up-to-date. Make sure you’re not sending a card to someone who has left the department or the company.
4. Check the spelling of your contacts and their corporate name. Any good points you’ll score with a holiday card will be lost if you misspell your contact’s name or corporate information.
5. Include one of your business cards inside the greeting card. This small insertion ensures that your recipients have your most current contact information and will reinforce your name with the card’s recipient.
6. Be sure that your inscriptions on the outside of the card are both legible and attractive. Consider using a form of calligraphy to make your recipient’s name and address visibly pleasing. Also, be sure to include your return address on the mailing envelope.
7. Sign each card personally. It only takes a moment to sign your name and write a short greeting, and your business associates will notice and appreciate this more personal gesture.
8. Don’t be late. In life and in business, timing is everything. Remember that many companies close during the holidays and people take vacation to be with family, so send your cards early. Also note the possibility that a recipient of your card may want (out of consideration or guilt) to respond with a card back to you prior to the holidays. Aim to have all your corporate holiday cards in the mail no later than December 15 if you’re sending them within the U.S., or earlier if you’re sending them via international mail.
A properly thought-out and created holiday card can be a wonderful asset to your business relationships. Take the time to make this personal gesture, and it will be sure to be appreciated and remembered.