Every year at this time, I recall the most annoying and upsetting email I ever received from a CEO over the holidays. Apparently alarmed at falling revenues, which he caused by mucking with the sales compensation program (which I personally pointed out to him was a less-than-wise move), our illustrious CEO noticed that a lot of people were at work over the last two weeks of the year and some were having too much fun. So he sent out a memo suggesting folks either take their vacation days or get to work because they were being paid to work not to have fun.
I was in internal audit at the time, working 18-hour days and 6.5-day weeks on salary. None of my team were screwing off, and that letter got me thinking there were better places to work than where I was — and that telling that CEO where to stick that memo was a really good idea.
I’m kind of surprised I didn’t get fired more often. . . .
There is an old rule that is particularly pertinent this time of year, given the stress people are under with families, personal finances and the critical need to close the year out before vacation. That is criticize in private (or not at all) and praise in public. A mass “get your butts back to work” memo will likely have the opposite effect.
So I have some suggestions for things to do over these two weeks other than writing nasty global emails.
Now is a great time to thank all of the people who support you during the year. Tech support, admins, even security guards are working over the holidays, and you likely take what they do for granted most of the year. If you have some time, send them a note, or better yet, just tell them you appreciate what they are doing — particularly if they are protecting or supporting you during the holidays when you are there with a skeleton staff getting your yearend tasks done. If some co-worker or manager had your back during the year, now is a nice time to remember them. Your words might provide encouragement for them to do it again — and we could all use help from time to time.
I’ve seen a lot of people go through their careers on a single path they hated. They didn’t like the work, they weren’t particularly good at it and they’d have been far happier doing something else.
Consider whether you or one of your employees is in that kind of rut and put together a plan to explore new opportunities. See if there is something else you can do that you’d enjoy more. If you have an employee who is a round peg in that square hole, now would be a good time to counsel them and work with them to find something they’d both enjoy more and become better at. This is a good time for thinking about where you are in life and where you’d like to be as part of an effort to create a better team.
In many cases the folks on your team that are working over the holidays are single and have remote families. That is tough, particularly over the holidays. Inviting them to lunch or drinks after work can be a good way to get to know them and make them feel they aren’t alone.
Since you likely have a thin team this week while at work, why not have a meeting to talk about the year and what you could do better as a manger to help them and what they’d like to do to improve their skills, improve their productivity and reduce their aggravation? It is a good time to find out what these employees find really annoying. Maybe you can prioritize fixing those things or just be an ear they can vent to.
It is easy to forget, particularly as a manager with a lot of work to get done before we take a well-deserved break, that our people, coworkers and support staff are under a lot of pressure as well. Many of them don’t have families they can visit and will spend the holidays alone. That is really hard, particularly if they are new to the area or to work in general. Some of the worst off are new hires out of college who are dealing with the loss of friends on top of everything else. Just taking a moment to see and deal with some of these folks could do wonders for the health of your team next year. In addition, our lasting impact on people is often the result of how well we mentor them and especially how well we treat them during high-stress times like the holidays.
Something to think about over the next two weeks and hopefully some ideas on what you can do that will have a material impact on both the people around you and how those people think of you going forward. Here is hoping you all have a wonderful holiday season!
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.