How to Write the Perfect Holiday Greeting Card for Your Employees

Friday, December 5, 2014

During the holidays, it is customary for managers to give greeting cards to staff. The problem is that most managers hate the whole process. I am going to show you how to create the perfect holiday greeting card.

In our virtual world of email and text messaging, the hand-written card has been placed on the endangered species list. The good news is that with rarity comes great value. I want to encourage you, as a manager, to redefine the holiday greeting card. I want you to create something that will actually move your staff emotionally.

What we want to get away from is the usual card that everyone writes each year. You know what I mean…the one’s where we sign our name and maybe write “Seasons Greetings” on the bottom—if they are not already included on the card.

It’s time to raise the standard. I’m talking about a human resources work of art. Imagine for a minute that this year, your employees will actually keep the card you write them. Imagine that they actually take it home and show their family. Imagine that they even bring it back to work in January and keep it in their desk to read every time they are feeling discouraged. Imagine that they auction it off on eBay for a ton of money as “Best Card Ever Written.” Okay, maybe I am getting carried away.

We have become numb to the mechanical expectation of exchanging cards. The good news is that expectations are at an all-time low. Employees do not expect greeting cards from their managers to say much. So, if you are willing to spend a little extra time, you can make a big impression on your employees this holiday season. Here are some ideas.


Don’t assume Hallmark can say it better than you

In fact, go and buy the cards that are blank on the inside. This forces you to write something yourself. But what do you write?

  • Personalize it. You want to write more than just “Happy Holidays,” or “Thanks for all the great effort this year.” Use the card to inspire, thank, recognize, and uplift the employee.
  • Praise the past. Include a memory that details one specific accomplishment during the year. “Bob, I’ll never forget how in March you organized that meeting when tensions were high. You set everyone at ease. It was pure magic, and you set an example for us all.”
  • Comment on their growth. Let each employee know how much you have seen him or her grow this year. “Sara, I am so proud to see how much you have grown as an up-and-coming manager. I remember how at the start of the year you used to get a bit stressed about the paperwork, but now you handle it with ease. It has freed you up to use that ‘Midas Touch’ you seem to have with the rest of the staff.”
  • Let them know they are integral to the team. People want to feel they are needed. Let them know specifically how the team relies on them. “Joe, I hope you realize how important you are to the team here. Not only are you the one that cheers everyone up, but your knowledge base is incredible and continues to grow. When anyone in the office needs to know something, everyone says, ‘Go ask Joe.’ I don’t know what we would do without you.”
  • Point out where you have learned from them. People want to feel respected by their boss. If they feel like you have learned something from them, it will communicate a huge amount of respect from you. Whether it is something big or as little as how someone handles customers on the phone, the key is to let them know they have value. “Kelly, I have learned a lot from you this year. I see how patient you are when training the new hires, and it has made a huge impression on me.  Because of your example, I have become a more patient manager. Thank you.”
  • Acknowledge Tough Times. If an employee suffered from something during the year—maybe an illness, death of a family member, or trials with home life—you can comment on how you admire them for persisting in tough circumstances and that your thoughts will be with them this holidays. The key here is to be sensitive and really care. This will mean a lot.

If you follow even a couple of these ideas, it will make your greeting cards stand out. Your staff will not bother comparing cards to see if you wrote the same thing in everyone’s card because they are all so individualized. Remember the key is to be genuine and speak from the heart.
Get started today

I know what you might be thinking, “How on earth will I have time to write a personalized card for every one of my employees?” The secret is to start now—that’s why I am sending this to you in the beginning of December. Write one card each day, or one each week depending on how many direct reports you have.

In the end, a personalized card—filled with genuine sentiment—is a small thing to do that can go a long way toward motivating your team for the coming year. You will be amazed at how many employees will warmly thank you for the card at the company holiday party. You may even hear, “It’s the nicest card any boss has ever given me.”

About the Author
James Robbins is a management consultant, adventurer and motivational speaker. He combines stories from his adventures and mountaineering expeditions with current research from the fields of psychology, and business, in order to help managers take their leadership to new levels.   James is also the author of  Nine Minutes on Monday; The Quick and Easy Way to Go From Manager to Leader, which was named the #1 business book of 2012 by The Globe and Mail. He can be reached at
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