Christmas Giving or Christmas Toxin

I like that we give at Christmas, although it’s only a recent development. But it feels fraudulent; I cringe when the email goes out “announcing” our gift. The company doesn’t particularly care for the employees or the people we engage with day to day. If I was in need they wouldn’t help. So although I think we should do it, it actually makes me feel less valued and, I hate to admit it, but a bit cross. I know it shouldn’t, but it does.
— Anonymous

All giving, however small, is worthwhile. And at this particular time of year corporations up and down the country are kindly putting their hands in their pockets to help those in need. And that should be applauded.

But how many people would relate to the sentiment I heard quoted above; where a cheque becomes a de facto whitewashing exercise for a culture or leadership structure lacking consideration or compassion?

Because when those holding the purse strings illustrate they do, after all, have the budget, time and capacity to be generous it inevitably prompts the question: "what are their reasons for doing so, and would they extend the same level of care towards me?"

If the answer to that is "mostly for appearances and, no, they probably wouldn't" then you potentially have a situation where your donation has the unfortunate fate of being both a gift and a toxin.

The damage can even extend beyond your employees. I know of a businessman whose public and generous gesture didn't go down at all well with the host of small suppliers he'd been asking for mercy and keeping at bay whilst he attempted to rescue his business.  They had families to care for too: that was the end of him.

Although an extreme example, the message is in there: people want integrity. They want acts of kindness to be genuinely motivated and aligned with corporate character. And seeing straight through anything to the contrary, they'll not only struggle to feel loyal but also miss out on the fullness of enjoyment that a giving process should bring.

So as an exercise, ask yourself "if we discounted everything we gave to registered charities this year, what remains to demonstrate we're a considerate, compassionate business?" What stories can we collate? Where have we intervened? Who have we sacrificed for? Where have we gone the extra mile? Who is on our radar for next year? Who am I investing time in? Because at any given time, someone, somewhere in your ranks or in your chain of relationships is in need - perhaps desperately so. And don't be fooled by size - the largest of organisations can be the loneliest: so much noise, so little listening.

So if you recognise there's a problem, use your Christmas giving as a launchpad. See it as the start of your most compassionate year yet, not the end of a year of misalignment. Because if you do, next year your giving will not be a toxin, but a joyous expression of who you are as a business. And that is something your people will want to get behind.