Holidays are usually a time of happiness and festivities. It’s important for managers and leaders to keep in mind that it can also be a time of stress and sorrow for their employees depending upon what is going on in their life. Managers need to be particularly aware during holiday parties and gift exchanges. How can managers help employees navigate through this time period?
Make sure that gift exchanges are not mandatory. Not all employees can afford to participate in holiday office gift giving. If the employees decide to have a gift exchange, put a limit on the dollar amount they should spend. Monetary limits should range from $5.00 to $25.00. Let all employees know right up front that not everyone will be participating and that it’s ok. If possible walk around with the “name jar" yourself – that way you know no one will be badgered into participating or be made to feel bad about their situation.
When the time comes to exchange gifts, rather than make a spectacle of each gift presentation, consider quietly placing the gifts at each work station. There will still be plenty of attention, but less on those who are unable to participate.
Consider foregoing the gift exchange all together and donate to a local charity instead. Many churches and homeless shelters are in need of money and donations. Make the office gift a donation to a charity and employees can give what they can. Warm coats and pantry items are always needed and appreciated. Another option is to find enough employees to do a group volunteer effort.
Avoid lavish events. Some companies like to go all out and have really lavish parties, unfortunately some also expect employees to foot part of the bill. For example, one local branch of a nationwide employer chartered a dinner cruise each year for the holiday party. Unfortunately, each employee had to pay $25 to attend and an additional $30 for a guest. This would be considered an exclusive party. Exclusive only to those who could afford to go.
Limit the alcohol. What is a holiday party without the drinks? You may have heavy drinkers or some recovering from alcoholism. Limit the number of drinks served at parties to a maximum of two – that way everyone stays safe.
Watch for signs of depression. There may be some who lost loved ones and may be battling depression this time every year. If the company has an Employee Assistance program, make sure the information is readily available. If a program is not available to employees, try to be understanding that they may not be performing at their best until after the holidays.
Being a manager sometimes requires going over and above making sure the work is done. It sometimes requires being aware of what’s going on. It doesn’t mean you need to pry into an employee’s personal business, just be aware they may have extenuating circumstances that will affect their holiday cheer.