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Home for the Holidays

It’s one of the most difficult times of the year for many while being hailed as the most wonderful time of the year.  It’s not a surprise to us that joy can come with searing pain.  As people professionals, we have listened to disappointments and historical trauma from our staff, as well as those new heartbreaks that are unfolding right before us all.

I listened to a dear colleague share how a fire ripped through the home of one of her staff, destroying everything.  There is no longer a home to return to for that entire family.  She shared how the company has banned together to make this a holiday of replenishment and affirmation like none other for the employee and her family.  It’s awesome to hear how people can rise up to help.  (It is, also, the post-holiday times that need to be handled as well.)

Our role as managers, supervisors, executives, HR pros is to look around us.  Tunnel vision on year-end deadlines and reporting is not helping the broader team.  It’s work to get done, for sure, but the impact of those things may not be as helpful to the larger population.  Look around and listen.

Some areas of sensitivity:

  • Military families – often, this time of year emphasizes the challenges of separation. Not having a particular family member home for the holidays can be painful.  Do you know who might need some extra support or resources?  How can you provide in a manner comfortable to the recipient?  Not everyone wants to be videoed for a Facebook post…be aware of the employee’s tolerance for help and the way it’s delivered.
  • Recently experiencing a family member’s departure – we will have employees who are currently dealing with the death of a close family member. The holidays might remind them of loss more than anything else.  Are there support structures available through the company?  EAP?  Local counselors?  And while it’s not so easy to broach the subject with some staff, being wise about the placement and opportunity for these resources is something we can do better.
  • Loneliness – a general pang of loneliness sweeps over many in our organizations. Even if they’ve experienced death or relocation of family years ago, this time of year can still bring to the surface feelings of distance and despair.  Look for ways to introduce small changes in workflow and schedules.  That modest shake-up might be enough to introduce a new pattern of thought and response.

Of course, people are dealing with all sorts of personal issues that can affect work at any time of the year.  But the holidays provide an especially sensitive time for some issues, often quite personal.  Have eyes to see how you can be smartly sensitive, without being over-bearing or intrusive, to those around you and in your charge.  And if you’re not sure how to handle it, talk to your HR team.  Let them provide the expertise of thought, approach and response for you to use.

Today, you might be the gift that someone needs.  Don’t underestimate the impact you can have in the lives of others.  By building healthy relationships, you can offer support and resources, but also a laugh and a cry.  We’re all in the people business.

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