Making It Easy – A Few Thoughts Around This Festive Time Of Year

by  John E. Smith  |  Team Dynamics
Making It Easy

Current motivational theory tells us that not everyone is swayed by the same arguments, enticed by the same toys, or moved by the same emotions. 

Makes sense to me, since we display a dizzying array of attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, preferences, and values, to say nothing of our overall personalities. 

We are each unique, every one of us. As serious students of leadership, we try to remember this simple idea as we manage our operations and our people. 

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”
~ George Eliot

We intentionally vary our programs for employee motivation, provide options for incentives and rewards, and generally try to play to the individual. This extends to our corporate holiday celebrations and practices, right?

Corporate Holiday Culture

In no particular order, here are some of my observations over the years about corporate holiday culture:

  • In some corporate offices, every possible religious observance of this time of year is visible. Inclusion rules, and creates a hodgepodge, where nothing stands out.
  • Employee celebrations occur where all are encouraged to attend, because Santa is not the only one keeping a list.
  • We choose corporate gifts with an eye to either reinforcing our brand or gifting all with the same exact thing, to avoid the messy emotions when some get this and others get that.
  • We get into complex discussions about how to greet others, trying to satisfy both our own needs and those of others who may not share the same detailed beliefs.
  • Either the work environment is completely frenetic (retail, hospitality, end of year deadlines) or pretty much non-productive, with many folks just marking time until they are off work for a few days or a few weeks.

Two Quick Observations & Discussion Starters

  1. The Group Is Important – Rituals are how we as individual members of a group mark our important times and thus they tend to be the same for everyone in the group. We bind to each other by sharing traditions, behaviors, dress, and sayings. Little in life can match the power of being part of a group, with everyone in sync, marching to the same beat, and in solidarity. We just need to remember that our group is not the group, but one of many groups, each with their own beliefs, behaviors, and values.
  2. The Individual Is Important – Even when everyone in a group, a department, or even a company shares the same general beliefs, behaviors, and values, we are still individuals. For example, not everyone enjoys a rousing and joyous holiday party. For some, this time of year is a time for quiet reflection on the year ending and the year to come. For some, this is even a time to remember and grieve. Some folks are just not into Christmas and forcing them to get into the spirit is not an appropriate goal.

Some Questions To Consider

With the above thoughts in mind, please consider the following questions:

  • How does your organization approach the holidays?
  • How do you as a leader make life easier for others at this time?
  • What of my observations and opinions do you disagree with and why?

On a personal note, I hope everyone’s holiday season is all you desire it to be as we try to balance the us and me in the holiday spirit.

How have you seen workplaces balance holiday expectations?

About The Author

Articles By john-smith
I enjoy helping people learn and grow through intentional, strategic, and social interventions. I coach, teach, train, facilitate, organize, write, speak, design, and lead at the intersection of leadership, learning, and human behavior. I am a CCE Board Certified Coach (BCC) with specializations in both Leadership/Business and Life/Personal coaching. My primary blog is The Strategic Learner on Wordpress.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Ajay Narasimhan  |  29 Dec 2014  |  Reply

As I commented on this a bit earlier on Twitter, this is about making life more meaningful and better for people around us in our own small way. It is the small things that carry true emotions and empathy with them. At the end our existence has no purpose if it is not about “Feeling, Caring & Sharing”.


John E. Smith  |  29 Dec 2014  |  Reply

Hi, Ajay – appreciate your comment.

You have nailed it … doing little things, which often cost little or nothing, makes a stronger long-term impact than the splashy and usually one-size-fits-all incentives and initiatives.

I try to be always mindful of one of my favorite Gandalf quotes via JRR Toilken: “I’ve found it is the small things; everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay… simple acts of kindness, and love.” I think this applies to today’s organizations just as well as Middle Earth:


Jane  |  29 Dec 2014  |  Reply

Observation of your question #3: I believe so strongly in what you said in paragraph #3 “We are each unique, every one of us. ” that I can’t disagree with anything you’ve observed. Because I have worked in a number of places the holiday season (which includes Christmas) I’ve been immersed in all aptitudes, attitudes, and practices from traditional to rogue. In one company each wing and each floor had a decorating contest one year and the next year, even personal decorating was discouraged. (New leadership, new culture) One organization kicked off the holiday season after a Thanksgiving pot luck, then anyone who wanted to participate drew names for Secret Santa. The Friday before Christmas, the CEO played Santa and made a big deal out of passing out the gifts one at a time.
I’ve never worked at an organization where Christmas or holiday was not celebrated at all, but it seems that the larger the organization, the smaller the emphasis on making the holidays a memorable ‘event’.

Mary C. Schaefer  |  29 Dec 2014  |  Reply

John, thank you for such a thoughtful post. Your second question, “How do you as a leader make life easier for others at this time?” speaks to me the most. I’m a former HR manager from a Fortune 100 company and I was never able to get my head around what IS appropriate.

If I were to focus more on how to handle this practically, I think I would fall back on this quotation I ran across many years ago, AND gather input from my constituents.

“The paradox of diversity: Each individual is like all other people, is like some other people, and is like no other person — all at the same time.” – source unknown

Again, thank you for this post. You wrangled down some thoughts that I know I have had and chose to put aside one too many times.

Jane  |  29 Dec 2014  |  Reply

I really like that quote you shared, Mary. I’ve never heard it before. I get frustrated with people who can accept others because of some difference they don’t like. I heard someone say to another person once “If you and I are exactly alike, one of us isn’t necessary.” Probably not 100% true, but true enough to make the point. We are different, but not so different that we can’t coexist without all the drama over things that don’t matter. Why can’t we all just get along? My dad used to tell me to think about things that had me frustrated. How much did it really matter and would the end result be worth the conflict? I just want us all to get along. :)

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