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Management: Keeping Holiday Stress Under Control
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Management: Keeping Holiday Stress Under Control- Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Keeping Holiday Stress Under Control

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Keeping Holiday Stress Under Control

The middle of November marks the beginning of the holiday season, and it can be the most stressful time of year for people on your team. Every office has its in-house season (or seasons) of maximum stress, but the end of the calendar year tends to be stressful across all realms of people’s lives, which means even the most professional employees will be carrying some of that to their desks every morning. The positive side of this is that you have a lot of influence on their managing this stress: you can undoubtedly add to it, but almost as easily, you can lessen stress levels.

If extremely important work can be put off until after the New Year, consider shifting things in the office calendar around to accommodate such change. Your people expect to work hard when they’re in the office, so don’t back off on everything. Just try to hold off on those no-room-for-flexibility tasks that threaten to keep everyone past dinner, and if some of the time-consuming grunt work can be taken off their plates, considering hiring a temp who will be grateful for the opportunity, or roll up your sleeves and take care of it yourself, possibly with the assistance of others on the management tier. Leadership means getting your hands dirty sometimes, and when is it more valuable than in times of personal and professional stress?

Take control of the vacation situation, communicating clearly your in-house staffing requirements. Deal with possible scheduling conflicts decisively and early; your people understand that they can’t always get what they want, and they will find it easier to shift things around in the other parts of their lives if they have enough time and clear expectations. Try not to let your singles or those without children be consistently on the less favorable end of the stick: their needs are as valid as anyone’s, and they’re too used to making way for the married and the parents.

Everyone loves a holiday party, but almost everyone gets invited to too many of them. If you can manage it, let everyone off the hook and have the party in January, especially if it’s one of those after-hours affairs, and give everyone the freedom not to participate: being pressured to attend a social event is the kind of stress nobody needs.

Understand that work is only one piece of the holiday stress equation, and do what you can to support your team in dealing with their away-from-work sources of stress. Children have band performances or church pageants; families can’t always arrive on planes at convenient times; other firms are having their holiday parties and your people have to accompany spouses and significant others. Work this all in as best you can, allowing for as much flexibility as you can without causing more stress for some employees while you lessen the stress of others.

While the holidays are a time of too much togetherness for many of us, for others, they can be depressing for any number of reasons. Pay close attention for signs of holiday blues, and go out of your way to be a sympathetic manager. Nobody expects you to invite lonely employees over for gift-opening on Christmas morning (the type of thing that can also be stressful!), but communicate with emotionally stressed team members that you appreciate them, you sympathize with them, and you’re willing to help. For many, just your reaching out will be an enormous relief.

In addition to work and family, there are multiple other sources of stress during the holidays, sources you can do very little about, such as bad weather, increased traffic, shorter daylight hours, increased susceptibility to colds and flus, and gift-shopping. Have a brainstorming session with some of the office leaders about what you can do to alleviate some of the stress related to these circumstances: you may have some great ideas yourself, but let them be creative in coming up with their own solutions, with the intention of your actually doing some of the things they come up with. It’s the season of cheer and merriment, after all, and few things are cheerier than knowing the boss is willing to run through the rain to fetch your car for you, or give you a long lunch so you can pick up a few gifts while the malls are less crowded.

The most important thing to remember is that holiday stress can take on an unlimited number of forms and appearances. Respond to the actual people in those cubicles as important individuals, which of course they are, and you’re already on your way to helping make it the joyous season it’s supposed to be.


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