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HR Holiday Protocol 101

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This week ushers in the Fall season with cooler temps, back to school, warmer foods, and cozy sweaters. But, if you’re in HR, Fall means something a little different. It can mean the dreaded start to the holiday season.

Questions start to come rapid-fire within weeks of the leaves falling from the trees. What kinds of parties? Where? Who are we inviting? How much can we spend? Are there gifts? Can we decorate? Can we dress up? Can we bring our family? Do we get paid? Do we have to go? Will there be vegan food? Can we have alcohol? The list is endless.

I’m guessing these will all be pretty much the same questions you muddled through last year thinking you’d figure it all by this year. Surprise! It’s this year. Well, here’s your chance to get through this year a bit more smoothly with a little pre-planning. Before jumping with both feet into the ho-ho holiday pool, ask yourself these three questions:

  • What’s our organizational culture? If you don’t know, this is a great time to figure that out.
  • What types of events would be meaningful to employees? Holding a formal dinner party when your employees wear jeans to work every day could actually be an extra burden during an already stressful time of year because they now have to go out and buy new clothes.
  • How much do we have to spend? Know your budget before you start planning. There’s nothing worse than getting down a path only to realize you can’t afford.

Now it’s time to plan:

  • Get others involved in the planning. You don’t need everyone to agree, but buy-in helps. Establish a committee or small group of people to represent your employees with diverse opinions and ideas.
  • The more diversity you have in the group, the better the event.Think about those who may have some challenges around the holiday. Planning events that result in expenses can be a real burden to employees.
  • Start early! All the best venues get booked early. Depending on where you live, some book a
  • year in advance!

Lastly – get your “what if” scenario answers/plans ready in advance:

  • What if you have employee’s who don’t want to participate? Everything isn’t for everyone. It’s Okay.
  • What if your employee asks about getting paid to go to a work party? Well, if it’s during work hours, and they are expected to be there, yep, they get paid. If it’s after work and they are not required to come, you don’t need to pay them.
  • What if they want to, or actually do, bring kids, but you only invited the employee plus their significant other? This happens more than I’d like to admit. I’ve learned you must be specific in the invitation. If you aren’t inviting children, you must specifically say it. Otherwise, I’m afraid too many people don’t take the hint.
  • What if someone drinks too much? First thing, DO NOT LET THEM DRIVE. This may seem like a duh, but it can be hard when someone is upset and drunk, and you’re trying to take their keys. No matter how upset an employee gets, do not allow them to drive. You could be saving a life.

Presents are another topic during the holiday season that can turn the jolliest of us into a downright Scrooge.

Gifts can be a touchy topic so here are some things to think through. Think about receiving a gift at the holidays. If you’re like many you have a feeling a reciprocation. I have an entire closet filled with gifts that are there for the “just in case” situations when I wasn’t prepared for getting a gift and now feel I need/want to give one back. In our personal lives it’s one thing, at work it another thing
entirely.

If you’re a small company you might start giving gifts because you only have a few employees. It’s fun and festive and affordable. Then the holiday comes where you can’t afford it anymore. Now it’s a take-a-way for those employees who loved this practice. All I’m saying here is think before you buy.

Decorations are fun and festive. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

If decorating is part of your organizational culture, then let the streamers fly. Just be sure those that don’t participate aren’t criticized or treated any differently for not being part of this awesomeness. Some employees save their festivities for home only.

The holiday season at work can be wonderful if you spend a little time being proactive and approach it mindfully. Think about your employees and ways to make this time of year special, fun, and simple. Be careful not to add stress, expense, and pressure. Also please remember that the holiday season can be a very difficult time for employees who have had a recent tragedy, loss of a loved one, a deployed family member. Just because someone might not be acting holly jolly, doesn’t mean they aren’t part of the
team.

Halloween is just around the corner, so put out the pumpkin spice spam (yep, that’s a thing), and have a wonderful holiday season.

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