Not just for Christmas…..

I read at the weekend that post office workers have been given guidance as to whether they should accept tips this Christmas. The excuse given for this is compliance with the Bribery Act although one can’t help but think once again that the HR department have spent too much time attending employment law update courses.

Add this to the news that over half of SMEs are planning to cancel or downsize their Christmas parties and it seems that many employers are doing their best to ensure that their workers have anything but a merry Christmas.

Christmas is a time of year that regularly taxes Finance Directors. Being expected to act like Scrooge throughout the year means that when we actually reach the season of goodwill the words “Bah Humbug” naturally trip off of our tongues. Christmas parties, staff tips and company gifts often provoke heated discussions that leave us tearing our hair our and desperate to get on with more value added activities like keeping the business afloat.

Actually I am fully in favour of Christmas parties (although on cost grounds I may occasionally advance the argument that they should be held at a time other than Christmas) although probably for negative reasons rather than positive ones. The impact on staff morale of not having one far outweighs the cost savings.

I am of course aware of all the HR issues that surround such events such as unacceptable behaviour and inclusivity, but I believe that if a business has proper codes as to how employees should conduct themselves at Christmas, or indeed any other time, it should be possible to ensure that the benefits outweigh any risks.

I am less in favour of corporate gifts. Active discussions take place as to which customers (always customers never suppliers – funny that) should receive Christmas gifts, what form they should take, how much should they cost, who should give them etc. etc. If the only consequence of the Bribery Act is that we can finally dispense with this annual ritual it will almost be justification for introducing it in the first place.

In this case I don’t think I am being Scrooge like in my dislike of forced Christmas bonhomie. In the same way that I believe that everyday should be Mother’s Day, customer (and supplier) care should be an ongoing daily process. Good business relationships are not just for Christmas you know.

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