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If you’ve been a leader for more than a minute, you know what happens during the holiday season. People are distracted and forget to keep working. Parties happen, and people forget their senses. Tips, gifts, and bonuses come into question. Orders and meetings get moved to January. Yet, the leader is still measured on results, goals, and performance while also having to deal with a multitude of new issues because the calendars are about to start over. Today’s Monday Moment addresses the top eight end of year issues and provides solutions that will make leading through the holidays easier.

1.      Seasonal Language

Do we say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, nothing, or something Kwanza related? We have become a very picky bunch with pretty defensive reactions to someone’s mere intent to share a kind wish.  At the risk of offending those who take themselves so very seriously, perhaps we consider saying I hope you are enjoying your holiday, if there is no clear direction on what the office mandates is appropriate. Be mindful of differences in celebrations on the team you lead and avoid the temptation to think yours is the only holiday that exists, but encourage the team to also realize, none of us are mind readers and a holiday wish from any culture or religion is nice, period.

2.      Holiday Depression

Most often innocently, those who love this time of year and bring their joy and excitement in the form of jingle bell necklaces to the office, can forget that for NOT all is this a happy season. Be on the lookout for those who may be more quiet than normal or are facing sadness over memories of loved ones no longer with us or who seem to be out of sorts in the office. Holiday depression is real and for some stress can rise exponentially. Pay closer attention to team members to make compassion and resources available, if necessary.

3.      Office Parties

These can super fun, or quite the disaster, and are most often somewhere in the middle. Having a holiday party is a wonderful chance to celebrate and come together. Keep the focus on work accomplishments. Decide if spouses are appropriate. Introduce a silly or common theme to keep things lively and consider strongly the use of alcohol and its liability.  Celebrate the season and if a party provides too much risk for the celebration to turn negative, choose another option.

4.      Presents

So much of the American culture is focused on gift giving that this issue is hard to avoid at the office, but even harder to navigate for leaders. The key is to be equitable. This doesn’t mean everyone gets exactly the same gift, but that the amount spent should be about equal for each person. Consider giving experiences or personalized items instead of spending money on that boxed cake no one ever knows what to do with.

5.      Decorations

There are less regulations on how outlandish cubes can be with pumpkins, witches, blood and skeletons, than are brought up at the first sight of a Christmas Tree, Creche or Menorah. How accepting and diverse and inclusive is your team and your company? Consider having a brief presentation daily on the meaning behind each person’s decoration, for the purpose of education and understanding. Or allow for no decorations for less distractions. The line a leader dances in this arena is about letting employees feel and be festive without anyone being offended. It’s tricky.

6.      More With Less

In some companies, employees bank all time off until the end of year during the holiday season. This means those who remain are doing more work and often the jobs of others. Set the expectations by doing some planning. Provide lunches as an option to those who are working. Recognize extra efforts and try not to take for granted that most of whom will remain are new people or those who would prefer to be at the office than with their own memories or families.

7.      Bonuses

In short, bonuses are a choice, often taken for granted. Employees may feel entitled and if that is the case, it started long before today’s discussion. Bonuses can give a company a tax reduction. Bonuses can give an employee a spike in feeling valued. Bonuses can make a big difference in the lives of employees. For any and all of those reasons, give freely that which you have available and lead the discussion about WHY you’re doing it. Lead employees to the place where they are grateful for the extra and realize bonuses are from their hard work and efforts, not just because they’re employed here.

8.      Customers

Employees, leaders, store clerks, family members, and yes, even customers can get stressed out this time of year. Lead with greater patience and compassion than may follow you to work in the Springtime. Pressure is high on the perfect gift and holiday impressions and additional activities, so customers may appear to be more needy. Prepare the team for what could be coming and remember your customers in your gift giving.

There’s nothing like a list of things for leaders to look out for, plan, and be careful to avoid, that crushes the holiday spirit and makes Santa stay home for the winter. Consider these more preventative than cautionary. Work them in to your day to day activities and try, above all else, to find joy, humor, or entertainment in the mayhem that often accompanies the season. We get so stressed and wound and busy, but threaten to hurt folks if they play jingle bells too early, only to spend the last week of the year ditching the décor and being so over it, we’d rather clean closets. Happens every year and will happen again. Maybe this year you lead the additional items to watch out for, much like a child leads the efforts to open the advent calendar. What will today bring as we’re one day closer to the holiday and New Year?

Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist and professional speaker. Her coaching, books, and skill based training programs are requested internationally. Monica is the CEO of  www.ContagiousCompanies.com and a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. She may be reached at 1-866-382-0121.

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