As we head into December, many organizations have started moving into the holiday season, complete with decorations throughout the office, ugly sweater parties and forced joyful messages.
For leaders, encouraging holiday spirit in the office is unnecessary. And this year, it might even be inappropriate. Your most important audience — your people — may not be in the mood.
From the “Great Resignation” to the “Great Burnout,” every week seems to bring fresh news that the U.S. workforce is tired. The first few days of the month have seen major layoffs in the tech sector. According to TechCrunch, the tech industry has seen more than 240,000 jobs lost in 2023, — 50% higher than last year. Even post-pandemic, there are reports of new COVID variants in circulation.
At the same time, our society continues to become more polarized. Freedom of speech is being curbed. War in Israel and Gaza has many people feeling less cheerful this holiday season.
Trying to push joy in these conditions could backfire and end up lowering morale. Instead, what if we pause the usual year-end traditions? Listening to people will help us think of creative alternatives.
Listen to employees.
As professional communicators, we know the importance of listening to our audiences. How is your team feeling? Would they like to see holiday messages from company leaders and decorations in the office? Or would your employees prefer to tone down or even skip those festivities this year? Find ways to take their temperature.
In small offices, you might check in with people individually. Larger organizations can survey employees or take a poll in a meeting using interactive presentation software. After asking folks for their views, the organization needs to follow through on that feedback, where possible.
Consider holiday alternatives.
If your internal surveys show that employees would prefer something else, then there are plenty of alternatives to holiday festivities that can boost morale.
Recently, about half of my department visited an interactive exhibit at a museum. The outing wasn’t in lieu of a holiday party, but it was an example of the alternative events available to work teams.
About half of us attended the exhibit. We used recorded sounds from our campus to create a symphonic piece together. It was an auditory experience, which didn’t require words, that was a welcome de-stresser and a creative way for us to work together without it feeling like work at all.
Whether your office decides to hold a holiday party or to host a team-building event instead, attendance should be optional for the staff.
Especially now, leaders should help their people feel seen and heard. Such recognition builds a healthy company culture and fosters a sense of belonging. At this time of the year, giving employees a voice goes a long way.
Recently, I have been vocal and visible about a cause that some people find polarizing. One of my leaders, who could have ignored or discouraged me, instead expressed admiration that I was standing up for what I believed. The gesture has helped me feel valued and appreciated, both as a colleague and as a human being.
This December, take stock of your employees’ priorities. Team-building activities can refresh your people, foster deeper connections among them and nourish their personal growth.
Stephanie Abraham is senior marketing and communications specialist at Cal Poly Pomona. Reach her at email@example.com.
[Photo credit: ty]