Better Boss’ Guide - Getting through the holiday season unscathed

Author: Jemini team

The holiday season can bring out the very best and the very worst in all of us. In some industries, it’s a time of bedlam and the most important selling window of the year. For retailers, what happens at Christmas can determine whether it’s been a year of profit or loss. For others, it’s a slow and winding road to the holidays; a time that’s written off from a productivity point of view and a chance to gear up for next year. Whether the busiest or quietest time of the year, this period can bring a lot of stress and turmoil for leaders and managers alike.

So, what makes the holiday season just so tough? Well, it’s that one time in the year when everybody wants the same days off. We’re working like the clappers to try and make the year-end figures. Meanwhile, everyone’s distracted with secret-Santa and shoveling handfuls of chocolates into their mouths. Then there’s the alcohol. Whether it’s over-indulging at the Christmas party or the nightly mugs of mulled wine - it’s a time when people can knowingly (or un-knowingly) bring their slightly intoxicated selves into the workplace. And that’s without all the stresses of the holiday build up - you know that dinner with the in-laws (and the outlaws).

So, to help you to hold things together this year, we’ve put together this guide with some tips that should make things that little bit easier.

The first thing to say is that you never know what your team members are dealing with in their personal, private lives. We’re all human after all. Christmas puts an immense amount of pressure on everyone. In the workplace, there’s the rush to get everything completed in time. There’s a tinge of worry about that upcoming end-of-year review or the nerves that come with hitting a sales hurdle. Privately, the holidays can be a difficult time for the best of us. Children want bigger, better presents around the tree. Family and friends have high expectations and there can be literal dread about hosting people on days when tensions run high. For some, the holidays are a constant reminder of being alone, isolated and without loved ones to treasure. This has only been amplified by recent lockdowns and social isolation felt in 2020 and 2021. So, whatever you do this holiday season, put the well-being and health of your people right at the top of your agenda.

Over-communicate the different wellbeing services on offer inside and outside of your organisation. Take away that stigma. People will often be afraid to look weak or ‘pathetic’ to their line managers. If you open up as a leader and show your own humanity and vulnerability, you’ll be giving people the permission and courage to open up and seek the help they need. As is so often said, a problem shared is a problem halved. Watch out for the signs of burnout. Remember, your best employees are for life, not just for Christmas.

There’s often that holiday season slump that saps the energy and productivity of your people. If you’re ordering holiday food and gifts online in between calls, there’s a good chance your people are too. Be careful not to be seen as Uncle or Aunt Scrooge. You’ve spent months (or years) building up the right rapport and trust with your teams. Being over-zealous can be counterproductive. In the eyes of your people, they’ve hard-earned this period when they can act a little more relaxed. Therefore, the key is showing that you can flex the rules a little, whilst still maintaining discipline, professionalism and a commitment to customers. Meet people halfway. Whilst your highest performing team might want to turn their hot-desks into a winter-wonderland, allow them to safely hang a selection of decorations that nobody is going to trip on!

Be realistic about what can be achieved between Christmas and New Year. In B2B, your sales teams will be finding it harder and harder to get through to the right people. So use the time wisely - get them working together so they’re excited, motivated and pumped-up, ready for the next quarter.

During the holiday season, leaders and managers like yourself can find it hard to keep up. You’re invited to drinks, informal gatherings and catch-ups with some of your most important clients. It can be easy to let your own work priorities overshadow the need to look after your own people. It’s important to remain self-aware. These simple questions can help you engage with your people and ensure they don’t feel invisible.

Young Woman With Suitcase Walking

1. How can I help you?

There’s a good chance your people have everything under control and there’s nothing to worry about. However, asking this question directly to each individual shows an empathy and willing to support.

2. Am I doing a good job at supporting you?

Depending on the kind of leader you are, you might find this a difficult question to go ahead and ask (for fear of what people might actually say). People might hold back and have fear of being honest - so why not just go ahead and say it anyway. Whatever the response, you’ll get a real insight into how you can go the extra mile.

3. What has been your biggest accomplishment this quarter?

Encourage people to reflect on what they’ve achieved in the past year. The business year whizzes by so fast and it can be easy to move from one initiative to another without sharing heartfelt thanks. It’s also a typically human trait to look back and think “what have I actually achieved this year, if anything?” which can be a negative thinking trap. The turbulence of the last two years is bound to have amplified this. By reminding people just what has been achieved - and how the team and management have valued it, you’re building sense of worth and achievement.

5. What are your goals for next year?

Allow people to see through the worries and anxieties of getting to year end. Remind them of their long-term future and ambitions in your organisation, as well as the training and development that’s on offer to get them step by step towards their career development goals.

Make people feel secure about December’s pay

Make people feel secure about their December pay-packet. It’s considered by many as the most important and most anticipated one of the year. Don’t leave payroll until the last minute and ensure you’re confident about how to calculate holiday pay correctly. The holidays act in New Zealand (and the awards system in Australia) are known for causing problems for organisations of all sizes. So much so, that even Government departments in NZ were highly publicised for getting holiday pay wrong (over-paying, under-paying or not even paying at all). For businesses with standard working hours, it’s a little more straightforward. But as soon as people change their pay and conditions or if people work part-time or have different shift patterns, holiday pay calculations start to become incredibly complicated.

How do you spot a potential payroll and holiday pay fiasco? Here’s some of the warning signs:

-Your payroll team is calculating holiday-pay entitlement in a spreadsheet

-You run an old payroll system, that hasn’t been updated in a long time

-Your payroll solution wasn’t designed for New Zealand or Australia and hasn’t been updated for a long time. (The latest cloud based online payroll software will often come with these updates as standard).

A final suggestion on payroll - ensure more than one person knows how to run your payroll software. Just in case that one person needs to attend to something urgently (and we don’t mean a trip to Santa’s workshop).

Be culturally aware this holiday season

All over the world, the majority of people celebrate some kind of festivity or occasion at the very same time as Christmas. Just be sensitive and inclusive to the way people value and celebrate during this period. Extend that knowledge and sensitivity into your communications, the gifts that you share and the way you bring everyone together at this time of the year. A little extra thought and personalisation will go a long way and will make each individual feel like they have been thought about.

From the Jemini team, we wish you and your teams a fun, productive and meaningful holiday period…

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