Memorial Day: Taking the Time to Say Thanks

'Flags-In' at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day 2008

To join the military is to accept that duty may ultimately require you to lay down your life. Despite growing up in a military family, this never occurred to me, and it certainly never occurred to me to be grateful for this sacrifice.

After I moved to New York City post-9/11 I saw a civilian approach a man in military garb and personally thank him for his service to our country.

And then another approached and did the same thing.

And then another.

The sight shocked and humbled me.

This man was on his way to Afghanistan because his duty led him there. Anything could happen. He could come back physically unscathed but wracked with PTSD…or he could not come back at all.

And yet, he knew where his duty lay and he was going quietly, boldly towards it…and no fewer than three stoic, angry New Yorkers approached him personally to say thanks.

What if we all took the time to say thanks?

Just one moment out of one day to acknowledge that the things we have and enjoy are the direct result of the actions of others.

What a good idea.

Turns out, there is a national moment of silence at 3pm every year on Memorial Day to honor all of the fallen American soldiers from all wars in history.

Well.

I intend to celebrate Memorial Day in the traditional way, with barbecue and 5K races and water sports and snow cones and pie. I intend to enjoy my freedom and take advantage of all this holiday has to offer.

And yet…

I am also going to take a moment at 3pm to say thanks.

Congratulations Cards for Work

A for Effort? Nah.

Were you one of those kids who was expected to bring home good grades in school? Other parents (gasp) paid their kids to bring home As while you got The Look for anything less than an A-minus. Sound familiar?

Business can be the same way, and it’s easy to overlook consistent high performance. But business is built on relationships. Don’t limit your interactions to trouble-shooting and complaints. Make sure to commend your contacts for their reliability and quality work.

One way to do this is to send a congratulations card. Here are a few reasons why.
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The Art of Congratulations

White Bouquet

Image credit: Sharon Mollerus

Most people love hearing good news from family, friends and colleagues. No matter how great the distance between you, a congratulations card is always an appropriate way to help them celebrate accomplishments and important events. Make it a card that they’ll remember with these three simple tips.

Three Components of a Great Congratulations Card

Send a Paper Card. It’s easy to send an e-card within a matter of minutes. The Greeting Card Association says that more than 500 million digital cards are sent each year.

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Boost Employee Morale With Birthday Cards

"they will see us waving from such great heights"

Think back to your last birthday — how many physical birthday cards did you receive?

Compare that to the number of “happy birthday” greetings that came to you from family, friends and colleagues on Facebook.

Carrie Phillippi, a marketing counselor at Saybrook Marketing Communications, conducted an experiment to see how she received the most birthday wishes. Of 242 birthday messages, only 20 were physical cards while a whopping 189 messages were sent through Facebook!

Technology makes it easy to send birthday wishes, but it doesn’t provide the human connection that comes with paper birthday cards. A memorable birthday greeting card shows that you planned ahead and made time to write and send the greeting.

In her list of 15 ways to boost employee morale, Lea Hartog, writer at HRWorld.com, says that recognizing birthdays, along with other personal accomplishments, is a great way to show your team members that you care about their life outside of the office.

When employees feel that they are appreciated and cared about, they are happier and more productive workers.

Here are three important points to remember before getting started.

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Happy Administrative Professionals’ Week!

Did you know that April 24-30 is Administrative Professionals’ Week? The U.S. Department of Labor lists more than 4.1 million administrative assistants and 8.9 million people working in various administrative support roles around the United States (source).

starbucks coffee with pot and cupWe know that many of our customers depend on their office professionals whose umbrella of responsibilities often include ordering the company holiday cards or office birthday cards. We love interacting with the dedicated people who help all those offices run smoothly. We know how important they are!

In honor of all office professionals, we’re giving away something else that helps offices run better: coffee. Specifically, a $25 gift card to Starbucks so you can buy yourself (and maybe an administrative professional) a cup of joe to jump start your work day. Our treat.

There are THREE WAYS to win!

  • Leave a comment below telling us if you’re an office professional or not (does not affect your chances to win)
  • Follow us on Twitter and tweet the following: Win a $25 Starbucks gift card in honor of Administrative Professionals’ Day from @HolidayCardsLLC #giveaway http://ow.ly/4Ia11
  • “LIKE” us on Facebook, then say hello so we know you’re there

THE RULES

  • Up to 3 maximum entries per person
  • Contest is open until Sunday, May 1 at noon CST
  • Winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday, May 2

Enter to win, then tell your administrative professionals that you appreciate all the work they do.

Commend a Client for Reaching a Milestone

People who excel in the business world know there’s more to business than business. Business is about building successful relationships. Good relationships have several common denominators:

  • Excellent communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Giving at least 100%
  • Respect
  • Maintenance

You can demonstrate your skills at all of the above by acknowledging a good client’s important milestone. We all appreciate someone noticing our accomplishments—it’s like getting that first A+ in school. Even if it was just for growing that bean plant without killing it, the recognition felt nice.

Clients expect you to be in contact; you are trading goods or services with them, and follow-up is critical. But remember that attention-to-detail component? Sending them a card to stay on their radar—that’s where you score extra points and can solidify that good relationship. Especially in this electronic communication age, an actual greeting card stands out!

What’s the Occasion?
Maybe your client was named to a Fortune 500 list, completed a lucrative acquisition or reached 25 years in business. Something like that might call for a congratulatory lunch or dinner. But even if the occasion isn’t that big, acknowledging a special event with a greeting card is a nice touch. It’s thoughtful, personal and will be appreciated.

What Type of Card?
The category of card depends on the particular milestone. If it’s an anniversary, choose that card to commemorate it. But a congratulations card would be a good fit, too, for just about any significant event.

  • The formality of the business relationship should dictate the style. A more casual tone is probably fine with longer-term associations.
  • Choose either a pre-printed verse with a hand-written, personalized note or a blank card to include a lengthier message.

What Can I Say?
Once again, the tone of your business association will suggest a message.

If it’s an old business pal, for a years-in-business milestone you might say,

  • “Wow, who knew you were THAT old? Were you a Founding Father?”
  • For a congratulatory message, consider a message like this: “Congratulations on your recent success! You should be buying ME lunch!”

 

When are Business Sympathy Cards Appropriate?

When a colleague or client experiences the death of someone close, whether family or co-worker, it’s hard to know the best way to respond. Sometimes attending calling hours or a memorial service isn’t possible due to distance. A good alternative is sending either a personal condolence card or one on behalf of your company (or a group of workers).

People often struggle with what to say to someone who has experienced a death. You want to acknowledge their loss, but not be intrusive or insensitive. Sending a card is a caring and respectful way to reach out to the person.

To whom you send the card may depend on your relationship with the recipient.

  • What if one of your best clients passes away? It would be appropriate to send cards to his colleagues, acknowledging their loss of a great co-worker. If your client worked for a small business and you’ve met his family members, it would also be a thoughtful gesture to send a card specifically to the family.
  • What if your client mentions they lost someone? If you’ve known this client for a while, a phone call would be appropriate. But also send a business sympathy card. You might send one personally and also have your company send a more “official” group card.

Your Message
Don’t worry too much about making your sympathy card message profound. Choosing a pre-printed verse is fine. If you have a closer relationship with the co-workers or family, write a personal note inside the card. Be yourself, but saying something like “I know how you feel” is not advised. Stick to simple sentiments that tell the person you’re thinking of them.

When are Business Sympathy Cards Appropriate?

When a colleague or client experiences the death of someone close, whether family or co-worker, it’s hard to know the best way to respond. Sometimes attending calling hours or a memorial service isn’t possible due to distance. A good alternative is sending either a personal condolence card or one on behalf of your company (or a group of workers).

People often struggle with what to say to someone who has experienced a death. You want to acknowledge their loss, but not be intrusive or insensitive. Sending a card is a caring and respectful way to reach out to the person.

To whom you send the card may depend on your relationship with the recipient.

  • What if one of your best clients passes away? It would be appropriate to send cards to his colleagues, acknowledging their loss of a great co-worker. If your client worked for a small business and you’ve met his family members, it would also be a thoughtful gesture to send a card specifically to the family.
  • What if your client mentions they lost someone? If you’ve known this client for a while, a phone call would be appropriate. But also send a business sympathy card. You might send one personally and also have your company send a more “official” group card.

Your Message
Don’t worry too much about making your sympathy card message profound. Choosing a pre-printed verse is fine. If you have a closer relationship with the co-workers or family, write a personal note inside the card. Be yourself, but saying something like “I know how you feel” is not advised. Stick to simple sentiments that tell the person you’re thinking of them.

Gag Birthday Gifts and Cards in the Workplace

Is it ever appropriate to give gag office birthday cards or gifts at work? That’s a tough question because gag gifts and cards can range from cute and harmless to the truly crass and offensive. Many other things come into play-the workplace setting and culture, the recipient of the card and the relationship between the giver and the recipient. So you will want to give some careful thought to a gag gift or business birthday card.

We live in an age of a corporate culture that is very cognizant of appropriate vs. inappropriate actions. So erring on the side of caution is best. According to HR consultant Ann Fisher, “My first thought is that the gift or card not be offensive to anyone. Anything that makes someone ‘uncomfortable’ could be considered harassment. You also need to be aware of something that could be considered discrimination against race, sex, religion or national origin, etc. Overall, using good taste and being aware of other’s feelings is the best bet.”

Humor can be Appropriate
Birthday card greetings to co-workers and staff certainly can utilize humor. But stick to “safe” topics like joking about the condition of their cubicle, their obsession with certain office supplies and other mild references to the workplace. Staying away from anything too personal is a good idea. Even if you have a friendship with a co-worker that supports a little personal ribbing, remember that other people may also see the card.

So it comes down to using good judgment and being more circumspect than you might be when picking out a card or gift for a pal.

Paying Attention: Acknowledge a Colleague’s Milestone

Let’s admit it. Since first grade, we’ve all liked having the teacher’s attention—the good kind. It’s a great feeling when someone acknowledges your “right answer!” or good work. The pursuit of that feeling doesn’t go away in the workplace; in fact it might be more important. The current business environment makes it tough to keep up with what’s happening in each other’s work world. Employees often get lost in the shuffle of change, re-orgs, etc.

But one thing in the workplace should be a constant—recognizing a colleague’s accomplishments. Important milestones like the anniversary of a hire date deserve extra attention. Marking this occasion with a business anniversary card can make a big difference in someone’s day.

While a celebratory lunch out with staff is a nice and welcome gesture, why not add a more personal touch with an individualized anniversary card message. It says you notice and value your employee’s commitment to the organization. You’ve also taken the time to tailor the card to the recipient.

It doesn’t just have to come from the boss—colleagues may want to share professional anniversary cards. We don’t always take the time to tell a co-worker we’re glad they’re part of our team. Instead of a hire date, you could acknowledge completion of a long project. How about adding a personalized message on a less formal card? Something like, “Happy Anniversary! So how many years have you actually been working on that project?!” playfully shows them you’ve been paying attention.

So, think back to the first grade teacher and how good it felt when she complimented your work. In this time of retaining good employees and colleagues, a special nod can remind staff that their continued loyalty counts.