Reader J writes in with a request for help on holiday cards…
I wonder whether you could post a very timely comment thread. I sat down, as I do every year, to address and send my holiday cards – only to realize that as a first-year attorney at a rather large firm that I had no idea who I should include on my mailing list. Likewise, I’ve accepted a clerkship in the relatively near future – would it be appropriate to send a card to the judge or to the chambers? I’m very curious to hear others’ thoughts on whom they include on their lists and why. When is it thoughtful to send a card to a higher-up, and when is it just kissing behind? :) How does one cull the list – it can’t be that one sends a card to every person one has ever worked with!
We sympathize — office politics are incredibly difficult to navigate come holiday-time. First, we stand by our advice last year on how to send holiday cards to coworkers, from how to address the letters, what kind of letters to pick, and so forth. (Pictured: New Year’s Fireworks, a pack of 8 available at MomaStore.org for $17.95.)
Secondly: Of course you don’t have to send them to everyone you work with, the possible exception being when you’re the owner of a business. But presumably, you would know everyone then — which is most likely not the case now. For our $.02, we would build the co-worker card list as follows:
- Good friends who you also see outside of work.
- Your secretary (and her cash gift or gift card — our old poll on this (with lots of comments) is here…)
- Co-workers with whom you actively work — if you’re on a team of 50 people but directly report to 2 people, and work with another 3 people at your level, we would include those 5.
- Bosses who know your name, even if you only report to someone below them. Ask yourself this question: If this boss were to call you out of the blue to ask about some work assignment you’ve done, how odd would that be? (On this point — we would send a card to your future judge. The absence of a card certainly won’t be missed, but your best wishes for a happy year in 2010 are certainly not going to be seen as unprofessional. In fact, you may want to send a card to the judge’s chambers, rather than to his or her home — that way the current clerk, the secretary, and everyone will appreciate your warmth.)
- Old mentors. If you worked with someone over your summer internship and liked them, send them a holiday card — even if you haven’t talked to them in a year. It’s a good way to stay present in their minds — always useful for networking — and helps pave the way from “colleague” to “friend.” You may even want to use the opportunity to casually suggest lunch.
- Also consider: Department-wide cards to essential departments in your company. The mail room — the duplicating department — the library — they’ll all be happy you thought of them (and, hopefully, will remember it when you need something). (You can probably interoffice these — every other card should be sent by mail.)
Cards and stamps are expensive, and hand-addressing them (both on the card and the envelope) takes time and energy — so don’t kill yourself on the project. At the end of the day, if you have to cut people, our first cut would be to the people who are at your level who you don’t know that well. Try to remember who talks to who, also — the last thing you want is for Boss #1 to say to Boss #2, “Wasn’t J’s holiday card great?” and then Boss #2 to feel slighted because you didn’t send him or her one.
Readers, weigh in — are you doing holiday cards? How do you figure out which co-workers to send them to?