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How to Help Your Team When They Stress About the Holidays

December 18th, 2020

Holiday stress is real. It’s a yearly phenomenon that doesn’t seem to change with time, and it’s likely to make a strong appearance this year, given our climate of uncertainty, political upheaval and social distancing. In fact, if anything, the holidays this year will bring even more stress than they have in the past, and all this stress will probably bring some inevitable results: low productivity, increased illness, turnover, and interpersonal friction.

What can you do to help? Here are a few simple tips.

Don’t make it worse.

First, don’t add fuel to the fire. Don’t expect or encourage your employees to buy gifts for each other and don’t place new burdens and responsibilities on their plates, like attendance at holiday-themed parties and events. Offer these opportunities for fun and relaxation if you like, but don’t suggest or imply that participation is mandatory or will be tracked. Let your employees join or abstain without judgment. Remember the unwritten rule about holiday gifting in the workplace: bosses can give gifts to underlings, but underlings are under no obligation to reciprocate.

Don’t maintain standard constraints on employee time.

When an employee has a personal issue to attend to and needs to clock out early, be more flexible during the holidays than you are during the rest of the year. Whatever your current constraints may be, relax them during the period from November 1st to January 3rd.

Acknowledge ALL the holidays or none of them.

Don’t engage in the “holiday wars”. There’s no place for such nonsense in a professional workplace. If you decide to put up a traditional Christmas tree, make sure you also give pride of place to a menorah and symbols of every faith and tradition represented by your team. If you don’t plan to do this, decorate with a winter theme instead—or don’t decorate at all. Don’t offend your employees or make them feel unseen during a period marked by both grace and stress.

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