January 2009


The Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl! Read a couple great posts about the little team that could from Michele PW and Mike Leeds this week.

Michele wrote about how everyone counted the Cardinals out, and no one thought they could do it. But against all odds, they DID IT. And we can and should approach our businesses with the same tenacity.

Mike went in a different direction to discuss the concept of sports fan etiquette, something I’d never considered before. Politics and religion have long been taboo subjects in the office, known to ignite intense controversy, while sports has always been a pretty safe bet. But what happens when you’re rooting for one team and your boss (and/or coworkers) are rooting for the other? Mike gives some great tips about how to be an enthusiastic fan without becoming boorish about it.

Reading Mike’s post got me to thinking about etiquette in other areas of life … which, of course, led me back to the holidays and gift-giving/Christmas stocking etiquette.

First, it helps to know what, precisely, is meant by the word. The first definition from dictionary.com is:

et⋅i⋅quette

[et-i-kit, -ket] – noun

1. conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.
2. a prescribed or accepted code of usage in matters of ceremony, as at a court or in official or other formal observances.
3. the code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other: medical etiquette.

Origin:
1740–50; < F étiquette, MF estiquette ticket, memorandum, deriv. of estiqu(i)er to attach, stick < Gmc. See stick 2 , -ette

So, basically, we’re talking about proper, polite, classy behavior that’s not going to create ill-will or stir up bad reactions in others. Seems easy enough when it comes to gift-giving, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

Tips for Being a Good Gift-Giver

  • Make sure the person to whom you are giving the gift will like it. This may seem rather obvious, but think back to some of the gifts you’ve received. If you’ve ever had that “What the hell were they thinking?!??” thought cross your mind on opening a gift, assess whether you might ever unintentionally create the same response in someone else. That techno gadget may seem cool to you, but you’re not going to be the one using it now, are you?
  • Avoid those obligatory “just because” gifts. Really. If your heart’s not in it, don’t waste your time or money because the recipient will know you picked it up at Home Depot or Staples on your way to the party and it will either be re-gifted, tossed in the trash bin, or sit on a shelf in the closet collecting dust. If etiquette calls for a gift and you don’t know the person well, do some research to find out what they’d like or opt for a gift card.
  • Be sure your gift is lifestyle appropriate for the person receiving it. A large box of Godiva chocolates may be a fantastic gift for one person, but it would be incredibly insensitive for someone with diabetes. Likewise, a gorgeous, personalized Christmas stocking might delight one person, but giving the same gift to someone who is Jewish, Muslim, or does not celebrate Christmas would be disrespectful and could even be perceived as offensive.

Appropriate Gifts for Your Boss

The “women in business” page on About.com had some interesting advice about gifts for the boss. The gist of the question was about the appropriateness of giving your boss a hand-made gift … but the advice is more generic and actually quite helpful.

Generally speaking, the appropriateness of a handmade gift depends on what it is and how well you know your boss. Scented candles are nice and may demonstrate your talent, but not everyone appreciates scented items. Art is also a matter of personal taste, so before you wrap and present that opus magnum into which you’ve poured days and weeks of your life, be absolutely certain it will be appreciated. If you do give a painting, pottery, or any sort of display item, you probably want to keep it small.

No matter how talented you are, the last thing you want to do is make your boss feel obligated to display, use, or consume anything you make.

Like we discussed earlier, you must give the gift with the recipient’s tastes in mind, not yours. While your friends and/or family might appreciate a hand-made gift from you because of the close relationship you have with them, your boss is not necessarily going to have a similar response. And you cannot make him/her wrong for that!

Your boss will be most likely to appreciate something that has a practical use. Your goal with a gift to a fellow business professional is to communicate that you value and appreciate them … not so much the “handmade with love” message.

Christmas Stocking Etiquette

  • Make sure you’ve got a stocking for everyone! If you will have a house guest celebrating with your family at the time you will be opening stockings, be sure you’ve got a stocking for them, too.
  • Allow the guest to take the stocking with them when they depart. This question came up in response to my Google search for “Christmas stocking etiquette,” and my first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me!!” Of course your guests should take their stockings home with them! Why on earth would you buy/make them a stocking if you didn’t intend for them to take it home? Just have enough sense not to designate as theirs an expensive stocking or family heirloom you prefer to keep. Yes, there’s something to be said for having all the stockings match your decor perfectly. There’s also common sense. Pull it out of the linen closet at the last minute, if you don’t want the guest’s stocking to clash with your decorations.
  • On the other hand, just because you offer to allow them to take it, realize they may politely decline. Who knows – perhaps they’ve got piles of stockings at their house and just don’t need another one. Whatever their reason, unless they are ungracious (and even if they are), suggest that your guest take the stocking, but be flexible and fine with it if they prefer not to.
    • Fill the stockings proportionately, but don’t make yourself crazy about this. When you’ve got little kids (and maybe even older kids), it’s sometimes really important to do things proportionately. If Johnny gets 7 items in his stocking, Janie gets 7 in hers. But sometimes trying to be fair and equal can get preposterous. Just don’t go overboard and fill one stocking to the brim, while all the others look like they each contain a miniature Hershey bar and a stick of gum.
    • Take care with the size of your stockings! The bigger it is, the more it will take to fill it. I still think the dollar store is a great place to find stocking stuffers … but even that can add up if you’ve got four or five giant stockings with big gaping mouths.

    Post Script

    Gotta love the rant about Christmas carol etiquette … where else? At the Christmas Rants blog.

    Saw a sign with these words on it

    this morning when I dropped my mom off

    at the adult daycare. Wow – what a life

    we’d all have if we followed this simple recipe!

    wish-dream-believe-smile-give

    Question: Are there reasons to give Christmas
    stockings once Christmas has passed?


    Answer: You bet!


    Wedding

    Although the wedding register is a now-traditional aspect of bridal fever, I tend to eschew the itemized “want list” in favor of a more personal gift. Nothing could be more personal than giving a pair of Christmas stockings to a newly married couple.

    The stockings need not be identical to work, as long as they complement and flatter each other, rather than clashing horribly by being mismatched in terms of size, color, fabric choice, or general design. It helps if you know the couple’s tastes, colors, and/or home decor theme.

    Whether you make the stockings yourself or purchase them elsewhere (here!), consider stitching the wedding date somewhere onto the face of the stocking to commemorate the couple’s union.

    Baby Shower

    When a woman or couple is preparing to welcome a new baby (either through pregnancy or adoption), the last thing they likely are considering is the baby’s first Christmas. As with the newlyweds, if you know them well enough to know their taste, color preferences, and/or home decor, a Christmas stocking can be a welcome gift for a new baby. Depending on the couple’s tastes, a stocking that incorporates baby-themed flannel or cotton prints in bright or pastel colors might work well.

    If the couple has opted not to learn the child’s gender or name the baby ahead of time, you may want to include a note offering to affix the baby’s name to the stocking after the birth, once the name has been determined.

    Like the wedding date for the newlyweds, it can be a nice touch to add the baby’s birth date to the stocking.

    Housewarming

    Kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, houseplants, bottles of wine … all make great, but boring, housewarming gifts. A great gift for the new homeowner – particularly a first-time home buyer – is a Christmas stocking that matches their taste and decor. Most people move earlier in the year, so when the holidays roll around, your friend or loved one will likely be grateful to you for your thoughtful gift of a personalized stocking.

    New Office or Business

    Have you ever seen stockings used as decorations at places like banks, the dentist’s office, or your dry cleaner? Ever wonder where they come from and who puts the names on them? I do!

    If someone you know is opening a new business or storefront, a set of Christmas stockings can make the perfect congratulatory gift. Like the case of the new baby, you can always offer to personalize the stockings at a later time – or make them so festive and gorgeous that names become completely unnecessary.

    The fact is, stockings are still primarily a facet of the Christmas celebration … but they make wonderful gifts year-round.

    We have July 4th; Australians have January 26th. Happy Australia Day!

    Learn lots more about this festive national celebration.

    In the Chinese calendar, today (Jan. 26) begins the Year of the Ox, also known by its formal name, Ji Chou. 己丑

    The Chinese calendar has been in continuous use since about 2600 BC, predating the Western Calendar in present use by more than 2,000 years. The Chinese calendar, begun by Emperor Huang Ti, is also a yearly one, with the start of the year based on the cycles of the moon. As a result, the beginning of the year can fluctuate from late January to mid-February. A complete cycle takes 60 years, made up of five cycles of 12 years.

    The Chinese calendar names each of the 12 years after an animal. According to legend, Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him just before he transitioned out of his earthly life. Only 12 actually showed up to bid him farewell, and as a reward, he named a year after each of them, in the order they arrived to send him off. According to Chinese tradition, the animal that rules the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on their personality.

    Ox Years

    1913
    1925
    1937
    1949
    1961
    1973
    1985
    1997
    2009

    The Sign of the Ox

    The Ox is the sign of prosperity that comes through fortitude and hard work. Being born under this sign indicates a born leader who is quite dependable and possesses an innate ability to achieve great things. These people tend to be dependable, calm, and modest. Like their animal namesake, those born under the Ox are unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring almost any amount of hardship without complaint.

    Ox people need peace and quiet to work through their ideas, but they can be stubborn, so when they’ve set their minds on something, it can be very difficult to convince them otherwise. An Ox person has a very logical mind and a systematic approach to whatever they do, though they have tremendous imagination and an unique appreciation for beauty. These people tend to be extremely intelligent, but they speak little. When necessary, however, their words are eloquent.

    People born under the influence of the Ox are kind, caring souls, logical, positive, filled with common sense and with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Security is their main preoccupation in life, and they are prepared to toil long and hard in order to provide a warm, comfortable, stable home for themselves and their families. Strong-minded, stubborn, individualistic, the majority are highly intelligent individuals who know their minds and don’t appreciate being told what to do.

    The Ox works hard, patiently, methodically, reflectively, and intelligently. Tenacious and self-sacrificing, these people enjoy helping others, but also have very active minds.

    Rarely driven by the prospect of financial gain, the Ox is not extravagant and the thought of something like piling up credit card debt makes them quite nervous. The possibility of taking a serious risk could cause the Ox sleepless nights.

    Those born under the Ox tend to be truthful and sincere, so they find the idea of wheeling and dealing in a competitive world distasteful. They are welcome almost everywhere because of their honesty and patience, and are reported to have the most beautiful of faces in the zodiac. They have many friends, but are wary of new trends, even though they can, every now and again, be encouraged to try something new. People born in the year of the Ox make wonderful parents and teachers.

    It is important to remember that the Ox people are sociable and relaxed when they feel secure, but occasionally a dark cloud looms over such people and they engage all the trials of the whole world and seek solutions for them.

    Interesting Side Note

    Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961, making him both a Leo and an Ox.

    Gifts for People Born in the Year of the Ox

    Because people born under the Ox tend to love stability and tradition, they are most comfortable, at peace, and happiest at home. They tend to prefer the color violet. Appealing gems and stones are jade, emerald, moss-agate, and lapis-lazuli.

    Great gift ideas include kitchen accessories, gardening books, cookbooks, and bonsai trees.

    Hobbies they tend to enjoy include bodybuilding, baking, gardening, music, and sewing.

    Anything that enhances their home environment will likely be appreciated by people born under the Ox. If they venture away from home for a vacation, though, it’s generally to do some hiking or rock climbing.

    I’ve mentioned before that as a marketer, I have no general opposition to sales and entrepreneurship. Making things and selling things – it’s a large part of what makes the world go around. Michelle Obama’s anger irritation with the Ty toy company, though, is understandable – even warranted – in my opinion. I went back and reread the story, and Michelle’s own word for Ty’s actions was “inappropriate.”

    Those who claim that Michelle and Barack used their daughters as part of their political campaign are misguided. How soon they forget Barack’s anger when the cameras followed him and Sasha through their Chicago neighborhood on Halloween. The girls are smart and beautiful – and a cherished part of what makes the Obama family so special. The two times we’ve seen them boldly and publicly were Election Night and at the Inauguration, as we should have.

    If you want to talk about displaying kids for political gain, you need look back no further than Sarah Palin dragging her infant son around till all hours, only to have her youngest daughter care for him. And the pregnant daughter and fiance-by-force. And the son in the military. Give me a break, you folks who can’t/don’t/won’t see reality for what it is.

    One question in the midst of the commentary was how the Obama girls are being harmed by these dolls. The mere fact that their father is now the most scrutinized man on the planet will affect these girls’ lives in ways unimagined, and in ways far more sustained than having toy likenesses made of them. But that doesn’t make Ty’s position right. It’s hard to argue that this is anything other than profiteering by Ty.

    Not sure whether it warrants a full-fledged boycott, but I know I won’t knowingly be buying or recommending Ty toys as stocking stuffers anytime soon.

    Just my two cents, for what their worth.

    UPDATE, 25 Jan. 3:06 p.m.

    Not being the denizen of the Internet (or the blogging world) that I am, my sister hadn’t heard or seen any of the bruhaha surrounding the Obama girls dolls. Her opinion, succinct and common-sense as ever: Michelle and the Obama family have much bigger/more important things to worry about. These dolls are the least of their concerns, and she would have been much better off just letting this go without any public comment. My sister may have a point…

    the-five-sensesThe dictionary defines “sense”  as any of the faculties (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell) by which the mind receives and perceives information about the external world or the state of the body. Each of us tends to favor one sense over the others when it comes to calming effects, stimulating creativity, and simply enhancing the enjoyment of life.

    Here are some ideas for creating a stocking that appeals to all five senses.

    One is this great book called Crave the Feast of the Five Senses by Ludo Lefebvre.

    Sight

    iPod touch – Millions of songs. Thousands of movies. Hundreds of games.

    Digital camera with YouTube capture mode allows you to shoot video for easy online sharing

    Kaleidoscope – All these kaleidoscopes are hand-crafted in the U.S.

    Sound

    Noise-canceling headphones

    Nature sounds – Create your own CDs or MP3 playlists with royalty-free music and sound-effects from this site

    Wind chimes

    Smell

    Scented candles

    Fragrance diffusers

    Rain-forest friendly coffee beans – appeal to both taste and smell

    Incense and essential oils

    Taste

    Personalized M&M candies

    Flavored popcorn

    Royal Riviera Pears

    Jelly-Belly jelly beans

    Touch

    Miniature Zen rock garden

    The traditional scarf/mittens combo

    Even more traditional slippers

    Massage items

    Soaps and scrubs

    Hand-held showerhead

    Plush toys

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