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The Office
THE OFFICE

The Thought That Counts

What you'd be getting if our columnist were your Secret Santa?

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Most gift ideas for executives strike me as pretty unoriginal: How many monogrammed, leather-covered, USB-enabled goodies can one person shove into a supply cabinet? Still, I am not wholly unmoved by the conventions of the season. So here are the presents I would, if I could, give to every reader.

  • A window for every employee. The view may be of a verdant park, an office tower, or a speed trap. The point is, it's life--not work. People need occasionally to lift their gaze from what they're doing and remember that the world is larger than their jobs.

  • IT support that understands the business. I'll take it as a given that your technicians have mastered the disparate software, networks, and mobile devices without which your company can't operate. (That's a fair assumption, right?) The support staff I wish for you also pays attention to how employees actually do their jobs every day and works with them to make those jobs easier.

  • Two restaurants within a block or two of the building, both of which provide good food at reasonable prices and one of which your employees know you never frequent.

  • One meeting room with comfortable seats and no conference table. Most get-togethers will still take place in the usual sterile space with its whiteboards and laminated furniture. But there's nothing like a passel of mismatched armchairs and the mellow light from real lamps to encourage informal conversation and sallies down unbeaten paths.

  • A librarian. Yes, I know, much of what you need is available online and your staff Googles with the best of them. Still, corporate librarians operate with a level of nuance and finesse that technology can't match. They can uncover sources so obscure as to be practically nonexistent. And they know what's what--they not only tell people what is known but also warn them what isn't.

  • At least one employee under 25 and one employee over 60 who are equally enthusiastic about their jobs and visibly thrilled to be there each day. Just watching them reminds everyone how meaningful work can be with the right attitude.

  • Julie, your cruise director. Predictable social events--the summer outing at the lake, the rote birthday parties--may come to seem stale and joyless. Fortunately, fun is a core competence for some people; they can enliven an office with spontaneous diversions that don't detract from productivity. "The boss says we can leave an hour early on Thursday to catch a movie: Let's vote on what to see." "I just tacked on my door a baby picture of someone in the company; first person to guess who it is wins a mug."

  • Insufficient room to display your holiday cards. May your business have attracted so many customers, strategic partners, community supporters, mentors, friends, and well-wishers that their greetings overflow your available wall space. And may the new year bring even more.

Leigh Buchanan is an Inc. editor-at-large. She can be reached at lbuchanan@inc.com.

Last updated: Dec 1, 2006

LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.
@LeighEBuchanan




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