It's February, which means love is in the air -- and I’ve got Japan on the brain. Why? Because each Valentine’s Day accounts for a whopping $400 million in Japanese chocolate sales -- and most of the sweet stuff is given out at the office.
Unlike Valentine’s Day in the U.S., in Japan it’s women who do the bulk of the gifting. While chocolate can be given to a romantic partner as honmei choco (“favorite chocolate”) it’s typically offered as giri choco ("obligation chocolate"). Here’s how it works: On February 14, Japanese women give chocolates to their male colleagues. Exactly one month later, on March 14, their coworkers are expected to reciprocate with a small gift item. In recent years, however, many Japanese women have begun keeping the sweets for themselves as jibun choco, or “me chocolate.”
The idea of dedicating a major holiday to workplace gift-giving is pretty intriguing. In the U.S., office gifting is typically reserved for year-end bonuses tied to performance. While certainly appreciated, performance-based gifts don’t pack the emotional punch of a little pick-me-up gesture that says, “Thanks for your help,” “I value your input” or, more simply, “I appreciate you.”
Reserving a specific date on the calendar for such exchanges might ensure these small gestures are doled out evenly and fairly (and predictably!).
If this kind of obligatory gifting stresses you out, just think how often you offer up an effortless, "Hi, how are you?" and expect (and get) an automatic, "I'm fine, how are you?" in return. This simple conversational convention instantly generates good feeling and greases the wheels of empathy, connection and communication. If we can boost it further by exchanging simple treats, what’s not to love?
Happy Valentine's Day!
Before you go...
What's your take on scheduled workplace gift-giving? Should we make a day of it?
I absolutely loved this article as it expanded my thinking to further afield. I think sometimes I secularise myself thinking and just focus on where I work and live in Northern Ireland. Sometimes, you need to look at studies and the culture of what takes place in other countries - and whether this works or not.
In Northern Ireland, we would leave the "I appreciate you" gift to the end of the year - but I feel that if we "pay it forward" with kind gestures and body language we would definitely make for a better working environment.
"Empathy" is the overused word but just stopping and thinking about the other person - and not just what we will get out of the interaction.
Not sure what? I would love to hear from anyone if they had any thoughts on this?
@jfpconsultancy, that so interesting about the end-of-year "I appreciate you" gift in Northern Ireland. And YES I certainly think there is enough research out there to indicate that small gestures of kindness do lift the spirit and encourage "pay it forward" behavior regardless of where you happen to be, so the question is: How do you create a culture of kindness at your workplace? Is there a way to "institutionalize empathy" without losing some of the authenticity that makes such gestures truly meaningful?