Money is a Charmless Motivator

There’s nothing more vexatious than worrying about what to give your staff as an extra token of appreciation at Christmas.

At this time of year, at LLP Group, as at other companies all over the world, we’re busy trying to finalise projects and close outstanding sales, so that we can end the year with the highest possible revenue and profit. This year is no exception. But such anxieties are child’s play in comparison with the woes of deciding what gifts to give our staff.

I don’t mean bonuses, which may be substantial, or trivial, or indeed non-existent, depending on performance and position, and which are always monetary. Rather, I mean that little, and more effortful, token of appreciation that should be more personal, and which isn’t usually money.

Every year we struggle to please everyone, so every year we take soundings on what went down well in previous years. But, of course, we always fail.

We’ve given vouchers for Marks and Spencer.


We’ve given ‘experiences’, whereby everyone can choose from a list of ‘adventures’ such as driving a double-decker bus, a day of facials, massage and other forms of indolence at what’s called a ‘wellness centre’, a parachute jump, a dancing or a cooking lesson.


We’ve given company-branded items such as backpacks, jackets and polo shirts.


We’ve even given smoked salmon (I remember one employee saying, ‘All they gave me was a slab of wet fish.’).


Last year we did a sort of secret Santa thing whereby each employee chose a gift for another randomly nominated employee (I got a bottle of vintage Port and gave a collection of Japanese items to a colleague who’s learning Japanese).

secret santa


We’ve given LLP-branded mugs. We’ve given iPod Minis.

In Budapest this year, we’re giving dining-out vouchers.

romantic dinner

But I’ve learned that you can never get it right. True, you only hear about your failures to please, rarely that you have delighted anyone, but that is the way things are, and I am long since inured to it (any form of remuneration is naturally understood as entitlement rather than gift). So the scale of disappointment is always exaggerated.

A close friend of mine described how, even in a very difficult year, she managed to give cash bonuses to her staff, and heard not a word from them. (Her partner, seeing how hurt she was, gave the staff a stern dressing down.)

There’s a strong lobby in favour of ‘branded’ items with our logo on them, but my own view is that a gift shouldn’t come with too many strings attached. ‘I’ll give you this, but you’ll be advertising the company by wearing it or using it.’

We could debate this issue for hours, and often we do.

My advice, though, is not to worry too much about it. You’ll never please everyone. All in all, you’d be better off  worrying about the sales you need to close.

This year we’re giving vouchers, which, to my mind is more or less money. It’s charmless, and impersonal, but it’s convenient, and easy, and it’s apparently what everyone wants. You’ve got to please the majority at Christmas if you can.

Now, four more working days to close those sales.

2 thoughts on “Money is a Charmless Motivator

  1. Honestly, money is one of the best motivators …. You need them for life, like it or not. All we need is not only love, unfortunately. All of us would be pleased if shops gave us products for free (this was the drift of communism and we all know what was the end). Money simply wins. The other question is when one can say what amount is enough for one lifetime …


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