“Tis the season to be jolly…” or so the saying goes. But for many Leaders, it can be a far cry from that. At PEEL we know December is upon us, or as we say, “The Christmas lights are on”, as our phones light up and our emails hit overdrive with a surge in workplace concerns being raised and the Christmas parties have not even begun!
Whilst it’s a wonderful time of year, unfortunately Christmas can also be a catalyst for underlying frustrations and conflicts to be aired in the workplace. Why is that? The rush towards Christmas can be overwhelming both personally and professionally. As we come to the end of the year, we all have other things affecting the way we go about our work, whether it be –
- Trying to pump out work that has been hanging about so deadlines are complete by the end of the year so they don’t carry over.
- The lethargy we are feeling from the year to date.
- The pressures of over demanding children who have iPads and ponies on their Santa lists, as we brace ourselves for the onslaught of in-laws and relatives who are about to invade our homes. Or we have the after effects of the weekends spent with sun, surf and sand and can only focus on getting more of that over the holiday break.
Overlay these with the normal work issues around resourcing, cost-cuts and unachieved work targets and it is the perfect recipe for increasing temperatures around the workplace.
In addition to communicating and distributing your Respectful Workplace Policies and Organisational Values as reminders of appropriate behaviours to be followed at work Christmas Parties (if you haven’t done this already you still have time), you might want to consider some additional strategies to assist you in keeping things ‘chilled’ in your teams as they push toward the end of the year. As a Leader we encourage you to be particularly proactive at this time of year. Talk openly with your teams. Why not at your next team meeting engage your team in a discussion about managing the pressures which come with the end of year rush. To assist you, here are our top 5 tips for Leaders as the Christmas Lights start to flick on:
- Talk with your teams about work preferences. Remind them they each have different ways in which they prefer to work. That as individuals they all approach their work in different ways – they think in different ways, they plan in different ways and they communicate in different ways. For example, some people like to crystallise thoughts by talking and others prefer to think first; or some people like to follow a plan where as others prefer a more flexible approach to their work. The key message here is there is no right or wrong preferred style of working, it is just a different preference they each have and that whilst at other times of the year they may be more tolerant of these differences, given the pressures of the year end, they may need to remind themselves to be patient with each other, to be respectful in their interactions or to talk with each other in the first instance, rather than becoming irritated or frustrated.
- Encourage your team to communicate face-to-face, especially if they need to discuss something important. Remind them that if they do have to have a difficult conversation to plan for it before they have it and to focus on trying to find some common ground, given that a difficult conversation should not be about getting what you want. Remind them to check their emotions, to be vigilant self-monitors. Is what they are about to say to their colleague an appropriate response? Would they like to have the same thing said to them? Furthermore remind them not to make assumptions, encourage them to ask questions of each other and seek clarification with each before they jump to conclusions. If they do need to communicate a difficult decision and this has to be done by email, encourage them to take a second to re-read it before they press send. Ask them to challenge themselves - Is it clear? Is the tone the way they want it to be? Would they be happy to receive the email in the manner it is written?
- Two heads are better than one. Encourage a collaborative approach to resolving operational issues. For example, if deadlines in the team are not going to be met, encourage them to flag this early with you and with each other so a more collaborative approach to resolving the situation can be taken rather than key individuals burning the candle at both ends in an attempt to achieve the unachievable, which only makes for shorter fuses in the team.
- Be supportive.At this time of year, some people report higher levels of stress or depression. Encourage your teams to watch for signs of people who are under the pump or are not being themselves. Ask them to act on it early and check in with each other - ‘R U OK’ or encourage them to escalate it to you as the Leader so further support and assistance can be provided. As a Leader, encourage your team members to leave the workplace on time as often as they can between now and the end of the year so they have time to balance their personal commitments and not feel pressured by them.
- Model the Behaviour. As the Leader - guide, inspire and motivate. There’s usually so much to do in such a short time before the sun sets on 2014. Keep a list of workplace deliverables to keep you and the team on track but be sure you evaluate your expectations, both of yourself and your team. Are you being realistic in what can be achieved between now and the end of the year? This is also the time to show your appreciation – listen, acknowledge and be present. Simply acknowledging your team and sincerely thanking them specifically for their work, their attitude and their commitment are important. Never underestimate the power of the words “thank you”.