I don’t like “business development”. Also, I’m wary of the holidays, with its bland commercialization and forced rituals. Christmas cards are one such ritual. Sending them to people you’ve met at work or to clients might seem like an especially unpromising way to connect.
Yet, cards work. Part of the reason is that, compared to other business paraphernalia, cards offer a socially acceptable way to genuinely expressive ourselves.
I also think cards provide acknowledgement that is lacking in the transactional nature of day to day work. As ruthless and superficial as business can be, there’s often good people working generously for us. Unexpected paperwork, departures, contracts, difficult emails, shifting timelines, and picking up of trash. We’ve all done work that can feel unseen and unrecognized.
It’s a meaningful gesture to send a card to the janitor who you chat with and know something about, or the person from the other team who stayed late to put out a fire. Send it to people who are new, or who might feel isolated in some way.
Christmas cards also serve other purposes. In a sector whose cherished norms allow me to greet clients dressed in jogging pants and a t-shirt, cards can express personal taste.
Cards can also support local artists and businesses. Go beyond Hallmark and look for something unique or local. This doesn’t have to expensive.
In Victoria, British Columbia, there’s a fantastic store called the Papery, a 40 year-old family business. While the city might not have the broadest pool of artists (though we have Emily Carr), the Papery maintains a fantastic selection of local artists and work from around the world.
There’s probably an equivalent source of cards near you. Or, you can go further, perhaps as a business, and commission from a local artist.
Tips, both heartfelt and vulgar:
- In business, trying to be liked is seen as lowly, producing the opposite effect. People understand you’re developing business relationships. You can do this at the same time while being sincere.
- Be authentic—I prefer to be specific and mention things that I like about people, not just I think they want to hear.
- Cards are probably most useful in detached relationships—you don’t send cards to strangers. On the other hand, if you were the best man at your co-worker’s wedding, there might be other gifts that are more natural.
- I actually don’t send cards to friends or family. It might be that the looser norms allows me greater expressiveness. Also, I know a lot of pagans.
- For letter post mailing times and cutoffs—roughly this week (Dec 15) is around the time to mail. However, I’ve gotten cards handed to me, sheepishly, in February—it doesn’t hurt if its meaningful.
- It sounds vulgar, but consider setting up an annual reminder in Google calendar (useful for other important events). It also helps to batch up all the cards.