Tips for Communicating with Employees During the Holiday Season

Holiday season is a time of year everybody looks forward. But at the same time it’s the time of year when many of us feel the most stress. There is so much to be glad about during the holidays, gatherings, parties, end-of-the-year vacations and breaks. But everyone seems to want the same considerations. Expectations and desires conflict everywhere you look, and if you don’t have a thoughtful plan for circumventing and managing conflicts in place there may be a few flare ups around the office.

One of the best ways to keep everyone’s expectations within reasonable range is to establish open and honest communication in advance of the holiday season. If you do it as early as possible you’ll find that people tend toward collaboration when the feel included. Things should play out seamlessly without the need for a company-wide negotiation training session. Although, the wouldn’t hurt either. Here are a few tips on critical points of communication you should consider.

  1. Express appreciation — Chances are good that your employees have logged another year of solid performance and they’re feeling perfectly entitled to a little end-of-year breather. When everyone feels that way expectations and desires for special consideration tend to overlap between one person and the next. You want to be as accommodating as possible, but you also have to accept the possibility that not everyone is going to get their way exactly as they want it. However, that’s no reason for morale to take a nosedive. As soon as the realization that the holiday season has arrived, initiate a recognition and acknowledgement program that lets everybody know that you’ve noticed all their hard work. Remember to follow the old adage of ‘praise publicly and criticize privately.’ You’ll be amazed to see how far offering a public ‘thank you,’ to employees will go.
  1. Make your efforts count — As we’ve already mentioned, the holiday season is a time when a backlog of expectations reaches a choke point. Your customers are thinking of their own holiday plans and expecting you to fulfill their needs in time for them to have them. Employees want their holidays, but you need them to take care of customers and clients first, and so on. So, while it’s important to perform recognition in the form of parties and events, it’s also important to stay focused until all the jobs are done. That means you’ll want to make sure whatever recognition initiatives you launch hit their mark on the first attempt. That could mean going big with a company party dazzling enough that employees will be talking about it for months. It could also mean using the big company bash as a kind of carrot on a stick by scheduling it late in the season.
  1. Communicate your vacation/time off policies — Before the flood of requests for time off be sure that you have circulated the most recent and updated version of vacation policies. Send out a company email that outlines the policies and make announcements at company meetings. Also include which days the office is scheduled to be close. That way, if you have deadlines that need to be met before the end of the year, everyone involved will be informed with sufficient advance notice to make the necessary accommodations. Logging extra hours in the days and weeks leading up to the Christmas/New Year’s holiday period is pretty common. Most of us probably expect it. The more advance notice you give, the better your employees will be able to spread out their extra duties to avoid excess stress.If you’re expecting to see a fair amount of vacation requests, you may want to consider setting vacation-request deadlines for each of the major holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.
  1. Encourage open communication and collaboration — For starters, you might want to consider posting the office time off schedule publicly. That way everyone has the ability to find out which of their colleagues will be taking days off and when. Also encourage employees to collaborate on both work projects and time-off schedules to make sure all the bases are covered without the need for managerial intervention. Many employers find that empowering employees to work things out on their own encourages compromise and camaraderie.

Open and honest communication is one of the hallmarks of a healthy work environment. And if there’s ever a time when it’s absolutely vital to maintaining good working relationships in the office, the holiday season is definitely it.

Photo Credit: Flickr/CAHNRS WSU

This guest post is courtesy of Dennis Hung.

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