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The Employment Guide to Surviving the Christmas Rush

The weeks leading into Christmas can be difficult and strained

Deadlines are a plenty, but time and patience are few.  We currently have clients distracted with petty issues taking centre stage and draining their energy unnecessarily.  Christmas can’t come soon enough for these businesses.

Some of us are also hanging in there for the annual shutdown.  It’s the only time where we can walk away from our work and forget about it for a week or more. 

So how do you and your team survive this mad time?  How do you come back refreshed without the burden of unresolved issues or negative air waiting for your return?

Well, we’ve come up with 5 tips to help you to stay calm and carry on:

1.  Keep FOCUSED on what is truly important and must be done

When we are tired, overwhelmed or frustrated it is easy for our emotions to get the best of us.  Maintain your focus on what must be done and what is truly important.  Plan ahead, reassess and plan daily.  Be pragmatic with your work and ruthless with your priorities. 

Tips for doing this:

  • Ask others – “how important is this work I am doing, to you right now?”.  Their response will go some way to telling you the real priority of the task.
  • Reorganise your to-do list based on – what is going to provide the biggest value or return but minimal effort?   Aka 80/20 rule.
  • Communicate your priorities to others and your capacity for additional work.

2.  Keep talking, no matter how busy you get

It’s easy when busy to let the regular team meetings, toolbox meetings or client meetings fall by the way side, or put them off until next week, and then the next week, and the next …

When everyone is busy and there is a lot going on, make time for these meetings and regular communication.  It is integral for keeping frustration down and for maintaining good working relationships with your people – team and clients.   

Managing a business or team?  When things are changing daily, use the first 15-30mins every other morning and then again during the day to check in with your team. 

When checking in, you will want to be asking them:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What do you have on for the day?
  • Are you on track?
  • Do you need my help?

These conversations will help you gauge when your team need you most.  You also want to be sharing with them your responses to the questions above. Lead by example and let them know how they can help you.   Asking these simple questions regularly, and taking action on what they have to say, can do profound things to morale and team culture.

3.  Build in time for Christmas Cheer.  Work hard, play hard and be fair.

December is when we can enjoy the sunshine and the longer days.  Being stuck indoors or on site for long hours can be draining.  The Christmas break is so close yet so far away.

Plan for down-time with the team.  This can be as simple as a lunch shout at a café, buying the team small Christmas presents, or arrange an early knock off followed by a beverage. 

Allow for breaks away from the grind.  This will keep your team fresh and focussed.   Provide everyone the same opportunity to enjoy in the Christmas cheer and fun activities. 

Emotions are heightened during times of stress.  Everyday gestures, interactions and emails can be over analysed by your team if you are seen to be playing favourites.  Be inclusive. Excluding others from lunches or drinks is not something you or others in your team want to be doing.  

4.  Keep to the 24-48 hour rule

Raise concerns and queries about staff behaviour or performance within 24 hours to 48 hours of it occurring. Don’t leave it because you are too busy or can’t handle the stress of it.

Staff behaviour at Christmas functions are included here too.

When someone is not on their game with accuracy or deadlines, they may be making life harder for others.  This is how frustration can start to build in a team. Differences in personalities and communication styles can then create extra friction or tension.  We have all been there at some point. 

To prevent the team spiralling in to a negative whinging stressed Christmas mood, raise concerns quickly with the person(s) concerned.  You may be surprised at what they have to say. 

Be careful not to jump in too strong or over-react.  Get the facts first and sleep on it. If a serious matter does come to your attention in the final few days before Christmas, seek help to ensure it is dealt with appropriately. 

Reality is, it will be waiting for you when you come back.  So make sure expectations and a plan is in place before the break.  Communicate respectfully and don’t buy into the drama. This will help ensure you still have a good break.

5.  Avoid snap decisions, rush jobs and seek help

How we make decisions under pressure is a reflection of our experience, maturity and courage. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to make the decision now.  Get the facts, give yourself time to think it through and trust your instincts.  There is a right time and a wrong time for snap decisions.

Some examples are:

You are short-staffed and struggling with workloads and demands

You may need people now, but just because you are short staffed doesn’t mean you hire the first person who walks through the door.   Consider paying a premium and reach out to a reputable recruitment agency. Alternatively, defer the permanent recruitment, seek out a temp and reallocate work.   Then reassess and comeback to it after the break.

Often our experience tell us that, new employees at the centre of poor performance and conduct concerns early in the New Year, can be linked to poor recruitment decisions and induction processes during the end of year rush.  

The decision to hire is not one you want to be making on the spot.  Nor do you want to leave your new starters to sink or swim. Do your recruitment due diligence and support your newbies with a good induction. Don’t have time then get a HR side-kick to help.

Nothing is changing and performance is getting worse.  Time to restructure.

Restructure outcomes are often delivered to staff in the lead up to Christmas.

Why is this?

Well one reason is that managers are sick of poor performing departments and staff.  Performance issues are unresolved from earlier in the year and these are directly impacting on business performance.  

The manager or owner has to do something.  They don’t want it dragging on for another year. They want change and a fresh start. Employee performance management takes too long so lets restructure.

If you are suffering from unresolved performance or conduct issues in the workplace.  Seek help to diagnose the concerns and problems.  Restructures are often more unsettling and do more damage at this time of the year than any other.   

Those left behind may spend the Christmas break reassessing their career and you could be met with a few resignations come February.

Surviving Christmas unscathed and with a smile is harder than it sounds. 

Some years are tougher than others.  What you do and how you do your work at this time of year, can leave a lasting impression greater than any other time of year.  It also will set the tone for your Christmas Break.  If you are stressed before you take leave, then it will take longer for you to relax and recovery from the busyness that is Christmas.

Tomorrow is another day.  Rest up when you can and if it doesn’t happen like it should, take responsibility and remind yourself or others the sky is not falling.  If you don’t get to it, maybe it just wasn’t that important in the first place.

If you are struggling or are under the pump our advice is – have support close by to remind you of these tips. Be supportive to others too.  Communicate,communicate, communicate.  And when you do communicate, keep it real and human.

Enjoy the festive season everyone.  Once the rush is over, take time to reflect, rest and recover.