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.

    Isn’t it interesting how we’ve been trained to generally think of gifts (at the holidays and year-round, as well) as something we do for others? But if you tell someone you bought yourself a gift, the reaction is somehow a little different – as though treating yourself well is selfish, or should come as an afterthought. The fact is, treating yourself well should be your first priority, because it’s only when you treat yourself well that you are healthy, happy, fulfilled, and able to be present – and give of yourself – to the others around you.

    I’ll admit, this runs counter to what most of us grew up hearing – but that doesn’t change the fact that we need to be our own self-advocates, which truly means putting our needs first. This does not in any way condone being a jackass and behaving selfishly (e.g., being a roadhog, taking the last cookie every time, demanding constant control of the remote, never having a generous bone in your body). But it means deliberately taking time to do the things we know are good for us. Eating healthy food, sleeping enough, exercising, keeping our space orderly, taking time to relax. How many of those things do we sacrifice on a daily or weekly basis because we have too many “other” things that take priority? The irony is that if the other things are taking priority, you may be putting them first, but you can’t possibly be giving them quality attention if you haven’t first attended to your own needs.

    At a recent networking event, we were asked during our introductions to name the personal and business resolution/goal we’d set for the new year. Funny how so many people could name the business resolution, but had a hard time specifying something personal.

    What would happen – how would your life change – if you made a concerted effort to take just a little more time for yourself on a regular basis? Take a class in a topic you’ve always wanted to learn more about. Spend 15 or 20 minutes of quiet time reflecting every morning or evening. Go for a daily walk in your neighborhood or at the local track. Read more; watch TV less. Take that bubble bath when the mood strikes. Buy the more expensive brand of tea or coffee. Take time to chat with your neighbor or coworker. Go to church. Buy flowers just because. Prepare your favorite recipe. Play with your kids or pets. Crank up your favorite music and dance! See the movie you want to see.

    Finding the perfect gift for someone else has its own special kind of joy – but don’t forget to take time regularly to put yourself at the top of the gift list. You deserve it!