Holidays at the Workplace

An Employee Survival Guide for Grinches & Elves Alike

Whether you work full-time or part-time, or you are a temporary or seasonal worker, you probably consider your coworkers your second family. And like family, you’ll be spending at least some of the holidays together. The key to navigating the season at work, as it is at home, is to pass along the joy and take a pass on the disasters. These holiday tips will help you do just that– think of it as our gift to you.  

Workplace Gifting 101

Price can be a workplace gifting bugaboo. For instance, going big can send the wrong message, plus incidental workplace costs can already make mincemeat out of your wallet. Whoever is in charge of gifting, whether white elephants or Secret Santas, should set price limits up front. (If that’s you, around $20 is the norm, as is asking coworkers to opt in rather than opt out of the events). With moderate pricing in force, thoughtful giving is the rule of thumb. Gift cards or food gifts are evergreen workplace options. If you’re buying for someone you don’t know, put your Santa hat on and find out a little something about them first (“I heard you get your 10 o’clock coffee fix at The Screamin’ Bean – here’s a gift card!”) to avoid being too generic.

If your workplace isn’t organizing a Secret Santa, remember that business etiquette does not require you to give a gift to anyone in the workplace. In fact, if your instinct is to bring cookies to the lunchroom and call it good, be our guest – a majority of American workers don’t plan to give gifts to their coworkers or their boss. Our best advice: follow company culture, gift to those in support roles, and cover yourself for any surprise elves bearing gifts by keeping a small wrapped present in a drawer just in case.

Did your office gift party go from “nailed it” to “oh no he didn’t”? Take heart from these gift giving fails from USA Today.

Holiday Party Basics

Cutting an annual rug can be a workplace rite of passage after all that nine-to-five. But we all know the first rule of holiday parties: Imbibe, and suffer the consequences Monday morning. While Ebenezer required a ghost of Christmas past to show him his transgressions, today we have it all on video (yes, that’s you dancing on the appetizer table). As mundane as this advice is, it happens – when the punch or eggnog is spiked more than it should be (You added the rum? I added the rum!), you’re tired, stressed, and working on an empty stomach. There’s just no other way to say it: when it comes to workplace celebrations, your mantra is moderation. Now, repeat until 2015.

Take that advice to heart, and the rest is simple. Remember that workplace parties are fun and work all rolled together in a proverbial yule log. Take a couple of minutes before arriving to make a mental note of names, small talk openers, and who you need to track down for a quick conversation (such as complimenting your supervisor on her design skills in the latest office memo). Bringing a significant other? Your workplace will let it be known if it’s OK. According to Blogging4jobs.com, you may want to think twice about bringing a brand new beau – unpredictable behavior will be a reflection on you. Do you have a friend who might be interested in the company or is spending the holidays solo? Unless its employees only, they are usually welcome, and they can make the evening more festive.

Finally, here’s the holiday party tip of the decade: Participate in the traditional antics. Says Boston.com, embarrassing yourself by joining in karaoke at the holiday party means you’re a team player. The points you get for belting out Celine Dion when the time comes will be worth it, even if the boss thinks you’re a little pitchy.

If all else fails and the office party is an abject disaster, don’t worry, it could have been worse.

Hush Your Humbug 

Nobody wants to be the coworker with the mistletoe hat and the jingle bell socks (Phil, I’m talking to you!). But being office neg-head when it comes to holiday cheer gets old as well, and it’s a brutal contagion. Forced joy can exacerbate seasonal frustration. Nevertheless, take the Rudolph target off your cubicle wall and grasp the jolly while you can. If over-commercialized giving provides the pall, spearhead a toy or coat collection for a local charity, or volunteer (scientifically proven to lift spirits). Then, put Idina Menzel’s holiday album on Spotify, and take the office celebrations in stride.

The Bottom Line

Remember that even if your only holiday tradition is strife while others seem to be having a season worthy of Norman Rockwell, it’s probably not the case. In fact, many of us aren’t caroling over the holidays – we’re working.

According to recent data, a quarter of Americans will be punching in instead of taking off this season. Holiday workers include employees in retail or service industries, those who work temporary and seasonal jobs, and those who rely on the extra cash. It’s easier said than done, but if the holiday pressures are bearing down particularly hard, do your best to make like a snowflake and chill – once the New Year is here, spring can’t be far behind.

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