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Bruce McAlpineLeadership

Survived 2020? 3 Tangible Ways to Thank Your Team

By December 9, 2020No Comments

If you have survived 2020 you probably have your team to thank.  Many firms were not so fortunate.  As we approach the religious holidays and the calendar year end, this is an appropriate time to pause and recognize the significant “extra mile” contributions of those we have relied on to get us through this challenging, unprecedented year.

But how can we do this in a meaningful way?  Here are three suggestions:

  1. Thank them with Money

For many, cash is going to be tight this year at the traditional time of gift-giving.  We would like to be able to help our staff with a special bonus, but cash gifts (which include gift certificates) are always taxable by the CRA at any value, rendering the gift less beneficial to the recipients than we would like.

However, the CRA allows non cash gifts etc. once per year with a value of up to $500 to not be a taxable benefit.

Here are some ways to make this work:

  • Buy everyone a gift or a mini-trip up to $500 in value (including taxes) and include the gift receipt so that they could return the item themselves if they so choose and buy something else that they might appreciate more. You could buy everyone the same item at one store like the Bay or you could ask each person where they want their gift to be purchased from so they could use their credit there.
  • Have your staff purchase their own gifts and submit their receipts to you for reimbursement, which you in turn can expense.
  • Advance them the cash from a slush fund, having them return the equivalent amount in receipts.
  1. Thank them with Time Off

Many of us and our staff are running on empty by this time in the pandemic crisis.  A little extra money is helpful, but what is really needed is a break to refresh, to recharge, to appreciate our lives and our blessings, and to get ready to step back into the ring again in January.  As employers we need to find ways to offer our staff some extra time off, as challenging as this may be.  This will obviously be context-specific.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Remind your team members that they need to take time off, even if they aren’t planning to go anywhere.
  • Also remind them that this is a marathon, not a sprint. It is all too easy to become available and accessible 7/24 when working from home.  They need to respect the limits of the traditional work day if they are going to last for the long term.
  • As long as essential services are being covered, employees working from home could be given time off between Christmas and New Years without it counting against their earned vacation days.
  • Others could be told that your expectation is simply that they check and return messages only twice a day during this period.
  1. Thank them with personal Expressions of Gratitude

We are all social beings.  We all need social interaction and signs of affection and appreciation.  And there is no better time than now to give personal expressions of gratitude, in all different forms.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Tell your team members individually that you appreciate them.
  • Send them a personal hand written greeting card.
  • If they are working from home, call them (during working hours!) out of the blue to see how they are doing and to offer appreciation and encouragement.
  • Host a video conference “happy hour” on company time, so your team members can reconnect socially and share some joy together.


One big learning from the COVID pandemic is that there is a need for us all in positions of leadership to run our businesses and manage our teams in a more humane way that we might have considered in the past.  The juxtaposition of religious holidays and year end is a great time for us to show our employees how much we value and appreciate them and their extra efforts, in ways that are meaningful to them.  Without them, WE would be out of a job!

About the author: Bruce McAlpine is President of Fulcrum Search Science Inc., a Toronto-based executive search firm solving Mission-Critical hiring challenges throughout North America, and Past President of the Association of Canadian Search, Employment & Staffing Services.  He can be reached at or 416.779.8505.