If you happy this and merry that, there’s no doubt someone will get upset.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as jolly as the next guy, but after 30 years in HR, the holiday spirit takes a little more energy than it used to.
I have seen work cultures that totally embrace holiday seasons and others that pretend there is nothing happening as cheer rings in all around them. If you are a full embracer or maybe still on the fence and looking for some guidance, well, you’re in luck. Happy holidays! Here’s a little gift from some of my past holiday experiences.
The holiday season — let’s just spell it out: Halloween through New Year’s — is a time of great celebration in this country. Yes, there are other holidays, but this particular season tends to create a special type of confusion in workplaces. Bosses and/or managers find themselves searching for answers to a slew of questions, including:
- To gift or not to gift?
- Party on company time or after hours?
- Include significant others in celebrations or not?
- Company-wide celebrations or departments only?
- Holiday bonus?
- Leave early the day before the holiday and still pay for non-exempt?
- Decorate the office?
- Allow employees to decorate their space?
- Food that the company provides or potlucks?
- Can employees dress like their favorite character from “The Grinch”? (yep, just had that question last year)
- Can employees’ children hang out at work during the holiday season while school is out? (another real-life oldie but goody)
- Secret Santa?
These are just a few of the quandaries I’ve encountered in holidays past.
Let’s be clear: I’m not telling you to be a Scrooge and pretend the holiday season doesn’t exist. I am telling you to brace yourself — I mean, prepare for it.
Prior to the onslaught — oops again, I mean, the joy of the holidays and questions from employees, have a plan. If you don’t understand what questions I mean, check out the bullet points above.
When planning for the holiday season at work, here is my humble advice. Keep it simple and ask yourself how your plans fit into the company culture you currently have or are working to achieve. Will your holiday vision have a positive impact on most of your employees or create more of a financial or emotional burden? (Hint: A formal dinner for employees likely requires new clothes and a babysitter.)
Understand that your vision might not always be shared, so keep in mind current or future employees who might not celebrate the holidays for one reason or another. Generally, these situations are handled with a conversation of mutual respect and understanding, but always be prepared so you aren’t caught off guard.
Giving a holiday bonus? Awesome. Please don’t make employees go to the holiday party to get it. Just saying. Not sure why? Read the last paragraph again.
Make sure the work environment is supportive of all cultures, religions, and beliefs. Christmas, for example, dominates many public spaces and workplaces and can feel overwhelming to someone who is not Christian. This is a really great time to also celebrate diversity. I’ve had some of the most amazing food by having culture-driven potlucks during the holidays because we all come from such rich backgrounds.
Celebrations at work can be something that can either pull employees together or create a dividing line. Work with and for your employees to provide a great holiday season that is just the right fit.