Your Questions About Workplace Holidays, Answered

December 1, 2016

I’ve teamed up with Katie + Skylar of Pare and Flourish to bring you a post about professionalism during the holidays!

Holidays are possibly the best time of the year—maybe theoretically is a better way to describe it. They’re magical and lively, but can be a bit awkward too. We experience a wide range of emotions during the holidays, and these circumstances can be especially dicey in the workplace. Is there an etiquette? If so, what is it?

Many of us have issues approaching the holidays, whether we talk about it or not. There are plenty of whispers about feeling guilty because you did or didn’t buy someone a gift, or whether or not you get a bonus this year and how much it will be  – Think Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation when he expects a big bonus and instead gets a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club.

We put together a few questions we’ve encountered in the past to try to provide some insight.

your-questions-about-workplace-holidays1

How do you respectfully communicate with coworkers who have different holiday beliefs?

Katie says:  When communicating about the holidays, it really is the thought that counts. Whether you say Happy Hanukkah or Merry Christmas, the idea is that you wished them well. Say what is natural to you, and expect the same from them.

Skylar says: I personally work for a Christian-based company. While I wouldn’t characterize myself as religious, I know how important religious holidays are to some of my coworkers. Keep the conversation light and family-focused, most of us have the importance of family time in common. No matter what your beliefs, “happy holidays” is always a safe bet.

Sarah says: Listen to others! Take time to ask questions in a respectful manner about traditions and holiday celebrations. Don’t make assumptions that someone celebrates as you do, but likewise don’t assume that they are different! Showing interest in coworkers’ customs and holiday plans will help to build a friendly work environment for all.

How should you approach your boss about holiday bonuses and time off?

Katie says: If you’re lucky, your boss will be upfront with you well ahead of time. If not, they will understand. They have families, too, after all.

Skylar says: Always be blunt, but respectful, about your benefits. Your holiday benefits are no different. If you’re unsure of how much time off you’re allowed or how much your bonus will be, ask. No one will take it away from you or think you’re rude for bringing it up. With that said, it’s important to go into a job fully understanding your time off and bonus expectations.

Sarah says: Ask politely, directly, and with ample notice! When thinking about leave during the holidays, keep in mind your allocated paid time off remaining for the year. Consult other coworkers to schedule leave intermittently if your office depends on constant coverage or meeting project deadlines. Approach your supervisor with a plan of action for how you will complete work before and after your leave. Never assume your company awards a holiday bonus!

How do you approach gift giving in the workplace?

Katie says: We are all adults here, no one should expect you to go out of your way to give them a gift. If you really want to give a gift, do it. If someone unexpectedly gives you a gift, you shouldn’t feel guilty for not having gotten them something. They wanted to buy you a gift, and that is incredibly generous, so thank them for their generosity and let that be the end.

Skylar says: If giving and receiving gifts is usually uncomfortable in your workplace, offer to host a secret santa. This is a nerve-free way to thwart the awkward feeling you get when you buy/don’t buy someone a gift.

Sarah says: I love gift giving at the holiday season, but it becomes quite difficult as your workplace grows. If you work in a small setting with just a few coworkers, a small gift exchange may be the norm. If you work in a large company, suggest a white elephant exchange or stocking stuffers to keep expenses low when buying for several individuals. I love mailing holiday cards to my coworkers and regular business patrons – affordable and personal!

How can a business creatively participate in charity efforts during the holiday season?

Katie says: The holiday season is a perfect time for your business to reach out to charities or to let your employees know what charities it’s are already partnered with. Encourage employees to donate or volunteer.

Skylar says: In the past, my company has split into teams, picked a charity per team, and then created a plan on how to raise the most money. This has proven to be a great team building exercise, while also raising thousands of dollars to donate to various charity organizations.

Sarah says: My company participates in a Thanksgiving food drive and the Circle of Love gift giving program for low-income families. These opportunities (and others like them) are low-cost and time-sensitive to employees who want to participate in charitable giving during the holidays. Make sure to appoint one person as the central organizer of a given drive to ensure deadlines are met, money is collected in a timely manner, and gifts are delivered!

How do you stay motivated to complete your tasks up until you leave for your holiday break? How do you get the motivation back when you return to work?

Katie says: Before the holidays, line out the tasks that have a tight deadline and finish those before the holiday. This will keep your mind busy and out of the internet shopping world until time for the holidays. Leave the less time-sensitive tasks for after the holidays, this will allow you to ease back into work. You will feel less stressed and dread heading back to work less.

Skylar says: Staying motivated is all about mindset. If you start believing for a second that everyone else in your office is starting to slack due to holiday excitement, you will too. Block that out and do your best work until the last few hours before break. When you get back, think about the time you spent relaxing over the break. Tell, or maybe convince, yourself that you’re well rested and that this is an opportunity to use your energy wisely.

Sarah says: I live and die by to-do lists. I get immense satisfaction from crossing off items, and feel complete when I take enough time to jot down my must-do tasks for the day. Create a two-tier to-do list: One column will be tasks you must complete before vacation, the second will include tasks that have later due dates or that can be pushed back. Prioritize tasks on each column with bright highlighters or Post-It flags. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in completing some tasks to make your vacation possible – Just don’t forget to be available for your coworkers during their leave!

How can you use the holiday season to socialize and get to know your coworkers?

Katie says: Office holiday parties are a must. There is guaranteed to be plenty of people you should get to know better, and this will come more easily in a more relaxed atmosphere. Set aside the awkward feelings you have about it and take the chance.

Skylar says: People love holidays. Everyone is in a good mood, knowing they have something to look forward to. Feed off that energy. Organize small holiday events, bring in baked goods, or start an office tradition. If you try to engage people, chances are they’ll join in.

Sarah says: Whether your position is salaried or hourly, find a common time to share a meal or drinks with coworkers. Be it a lunch break or an after-work function, taking the time to better know the individuals with whom you closely work can tremendously increase energy and productivity in the workplace. In the off chance that you identify differences between you and a coworker, use these social opportunities to find common ground on other topics.

What lessons have you learned in your own workplace holiday experiences?

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