Kimberly Merriman of Pennsylvania State University said providing parties, bonuses and other forms of acknowledgement, including gifts, for employees' work has symbolic value beyond the objective value that may be attached.
"They send a message that the employment relationship is more than simply a transactional one," Merriman said in a statement. "That message is especially important to convey if employees have endured a year of no raises, extra workloads, threats of layoff or many of the other conditions common in workplaces right now."
The key to gift giving and other forms of recognition around the holidays is being sincere, said Robert Eisenberger of the University of Houston.
He studies perceived organizational support -- what makes employees feel supported and cared about -- and has recently published a book titled "Perceived Organizational Support: Fostering Enthusiastic and Productive Employees."
"What's important is the genuineness of what you do," Eisenberger said. "If the employer just goes through the motions of giving a gift that doesn't really indicate they value employees, then it doesn't count for much. What, really is important is a genuine indication of valuation and caring."