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How To Handle Those Tricky Employee Holiday Issues

Everybody loves the holiday season, but it does present some unique business challenges. Knowing what those challenges are in advance will allow you to plan ahead for them, which allows you to be proactive, rather than reactive, and that’s always a good thing. Here’s a quick summary of the most common holiday-related issues you’re likely to face, and what you can do about them:

Depression and Isolation

It’s a sad fact, but true: Depression tends to increase during the holiday season. While the holidays are normally a time of joy and celebration, for those who have lost a loved one, this time of year can often dredge up painful memories. Those painful memories can lead to depression and a sense of isolation and withdrawal, which can impact attendance and work performance.

There’s no easy way to handle issues like these. The best thing you can do is stay alert to changes in employee behavior and remind all of your employees of the support services your company provides. It’s especially important to make this a blanket announcement and not call out individuals, as this might only deepen their depression, shame, and sense of isolation.

Bad Behavior At The Company Christmas Party

We used the term ‘Christmas Party’ in the headline, but of course, this applies to any company gathering or party, regardless of the specific time of year.

While holiday parties often feature some level of good-nature teasing or roasting, it’s incredibly easy for that kind of thing to get out of hand or to become mean-spirited. It’s also easy for people to enjoy a bit too much to drink and begin exhibiting bad behavior, to say nothing of the risks associated with drinking then trying to drive home from the company party.

Here, the best approach is to meet the issue head on, and in advance. Remind your employees of the standards of behavior you expect in advance of the party, and if at all possible, make arrangements to have a pool of designated drivers on hand to provide assistance to any employee who might need it. An abundance of caution on this front is always better than the alternative.

Where inappropriate party behavior is concerned, vigilance is the best defense. Just be mindful of the possibility that it could happen and be on the lookout for it. You’re unlikely to be able to prevent it from happening, but if you catch it early and put a stop to it, you can keep things from getting so far out of hand that it creates an issue that will have ripple effects that will be felt for weeks, or even months.

Productivity Issues

This is a major problem for just about every company during the holiday season. There’s shopping to be done. There are parties to plan, and those things can and do take away from the work day. It’s inevitable.

The best approach to take in this case is to begin well in advance and implement good time-management strategies. If possible, wrap up any time-sensitive projects your company is working on in advance of the holiday season so you’re not facing a business-critical crunch time on top of the looming holidays.

That’s great in theory, but unfortunately, sometimes it’s not always possible, and in those cases, it’s important to communicate to your staff what those mission-critical deadlines are so that everyone is fully aware of them and can build them into the holiday planning.

Hand in hand with this though, it’s also important that you be as flexible as possible. This generates a tremendous amount of goodwill that will have ripple effects that extend well into the new year.

Attendance Issues

This can be the trickiest and most intractable problem to deal with. After all, the holiday season is also cold and flu season, and it can sometimes be impossible to tell whether an employee called in sick to spend the day shopping, or because they’re legitimately ill.

The best way to approach these types of issues is to take into account the employee’s attendance in the months leading up to the holiday season. If your employee has had an excellent record of attendance prior to the holiday season, it’s a safe bet that they’re not gaming the system during the holiday season.

On the other hand, if the employee in question has had a spotty attendance record all year long, it’s a safe bet that there’s at least some gaming of the system going on.

The important thing here is to again be as respectful and flexible as you can, without getting run over. Of course, everyone wants to take Christmas day off, but if you’re going to be open that day, you’re going to need at least a minimal staff to make that happen, so it’s going to require sacrifice and teamwork.

Again, communication and advance planning are key. With planning, you should never find yourself in the position of having to ask an employee to work on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve. Assuming you’ll be open for all three, give people the opportunity to sign up for one of those, taking the other two off and see what that gets you.

Be aware that in the overwhelming majority of cases, those are going to be slow days at the office in any case, and it’s quite likely that a skeleton crew will be sufficient. You know your business, so let your experience be your guide here, but again, remember that your employees have lives and families too. They work hard for you, so cut them some slack where the holidays are concerned. Your understanding and flexibility will be noticed and appreciated.

The bottom line is that human resource issues can be tricky no matter what time of year it is, but they’re especially delicate during the holiday season. That doesn’t mean HR issues during this time of year are intractable, unsolvable problems, but it does require a lighter touch than usual, and a bit of finesse.