Celebrating the Holidays at Work: Can We Ever Get It Right?

Recently, I sent out a survey to my e-newsletter subscribers to find out what employees don’t enjoy about celebrating the holidays, both in general and at work.

The 1,200 plus respondents answered two questions, which both had 15 items to choose from (they could choose more than one). Here are the results:

Q1: What aspects of the holiday season do you DISLIKE most?

  1. Fighting traffic — 51 percent;
  2. The extra expense of Christmas — 19 percent;
  3. Gaining weight — 34 percent;
  4. Coming up with gift ideas for others — 34 percent;
  5. Expectations to buy others gifts — 31 percent;
  6. Coming up with gift ideas for myself — 28 percent;
  7. Busyness — 26 percent.

Q2: What don’t you like at the workplace during the holidays?

  1. Pressure to get year-end tasks done — 28 percent;
  2. White elephant” gift exchanges — 23 percent;
  3. Expected to buy gifts for colleagues or supervisor — 22 percent;
  4. Required to participate in “Secret Santa” giving — 21 percent;
  5. Having to attend after hours holiday celebration — 20 percent;
  6. Having to work on holidays — 18 percent;
  7. Being required to bring food for holiday luncheon — 18 percent.

Takeaways

No one will ever get the holiday celebration 100 percent right. You can’t please everyone. However, here are some general guidelines to follow when planning your holiday event:

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  • Leave ample time for employees to work on the extra year-end tasks.
  • Don’t force your employees to participate in the gathering or gift giving exchanges (explicitly or implicitly).
  • Be sensitive to scheduling and time requirements during the holidays.
  • If you are going to have a meal to celebrate, provide the food and schedule it during work hours if possible.
  • Last, keep it light. The holiday party should not be marred by discussions about performance or job tasks. It should be a time to celebrate the good and get to know the people you work with in a different, celebratory context.

As part of the survey, we also asked our subscribers to recall some of their worst holiday work experiences. The responses were truly outrageous, from a boss requiring sober employees to take part in a “party bus” experience to painfully awkward gift exchanges.

You can read more of our survey responses here.

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