The holiday season is here, and if you supervise others, you may be thinking about how to acknowledge them with some sort of celebration or gift. It’s been a bit of a year, to say the least. Your team members are no doubt deserving of recognition. But what to give them?

There’s one thing I can assure you is on every one of your team members’ wish lists: gratitude.

That’s right. The most important thing you can give your employees is the feeling that they are seen; that their contributions are noticed and valued; and that they are appreciated.

You might think that your team members already know how much you appreciate them. You’d probably be wrong. Here’s why. According to research cited by Harvard Business Review, there’s a significant gap between managers’ and employees’ perceptions. It’s called the “illusion of transparency” – or people’s tendency to overestimate how visible their emotions are to others. Simply put, most managers think they show appreciation to their people on a daily basis. Most team members, however, would disagree.

In the confidential employee feedback surveys we conduct at Swift Bunny, we hear comments like this all the time:

“Underperforming sites get a lot more attention whereas well-performing sites are placed on the back burner as far as regional visits, performance reviews, etc.”

“This past year my team and myself have been completely left out. From not ordering staff uniforms for 6 months to not following through with new hires and losing them – I no longer feel the ‘family’ atmosphere I once did.”

“Small, meaningful celebrations to show we are valued—as small as a personal phone call—go a long way. Management should do more of that. Buying us lunch is overrated.”

Hand Written Thank you notes multifamilyHere’s an idea for you for this holiday season. Schedule a one-on-one conversation with every person who reports to you. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation; thirty minutes will do. If you can swing it, take your conversation off-site such as over lunch or coffee. If you want to bring a holiday gift to that conversation, great. But more important than a holiday ham or yet another insulated mug will be the time you spend with them, one-on-one, and the attention you give them. Be prepared to share a list of the contributions they made this year. Get specific. Here’s an example: “Marty, on average, you conquered thirty-five service requests every week…that’s almost 2,000 customer service interactions you delivered this year, and we couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you.”

Here are some questions you may think about asking while you’re together:

  • What are some things you accomplished at work this past year that you are especially proud of?
  • What were some of the biggest challenges of the year?
  • What can I do to make next year more successful and satisfying for you?

I know you’re busy and making time for these conversations is really hard to do. But this is important—and it’s good for business. Psychologist Adam Grant’s research finds that when people experience gratitude from their manager, they’re more productive. Those who feel recognized and appreciated are less likely to join “The Great Resignation” and leave you with yet another vacant position to fill. As a bonus, other research shows that expressing gratitude towards others is one of the biggest happiness boosters out there. It’s a classic win/win: when you express thanks, your employee will feel awesome—and so will you! Tell me that isn’t way more rewarding than a Starbucks gift card.

This holiday season, focus on sharing sincere expressions of gratitude with every member of your team. And, let this be a habit you carry into the New Year. Don’t wait for another holiday season to roll around to tell your associates what you appreciate about them; make it an everyday practice. You’ll be rewarded with a more satisfying workplace culture for all.