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Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

How can talent managers try to ensure that holiday stress doesn\'t cause a decline in employee engagement or productivity?

December 21, 2010
Related Topics: Technology, Diversity Measurement
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It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but the holiday season can often be stressful for employees.

An employee’s children could be off of school for winter break and need extra care, for example. Anything from visiting relatives to holiday traffic can increase tension levels in the workplace and make it difficult to get work done.

Talent managers should be mindful of holiday stressors when recruiting and training employees during this time, especially if these employees interact directly with customers, explained Sharon Daniels, CEO of AchieveGlobal, a consulting firm specializing in interpersonal business skills.

“There [are] a lot of things that happen [during the holidays] that have nothing to do with work, and employees can bring the hassled feeling with them to work,” Daniels said. “It’s difficult for people to put that aside and think about what to do here at work.”

To ensure that holiday stress doesn’t cause a decline in engagement or productivity, Daniels recommended that talent managers focus on training with an emphasis on challenges that are likely to appear during this time. For many service-oriented positions, the biggest difficulties stem from increased workloads and upset customers.

“There are a number of things that I’ve seen effective mangers do, and it starts with training,” she said. “They’ve got to be thinking about skills that employees need during these times. Employees might need specialized courses on how to deal with heavy foot traffic or irate customers who are also stressed from the holidays.”

Daniels also cited the swell in temporary employees as a potential challenge for talent managers during the holidays. Recruiters should keep in mind the hectic and fast-paced environment that these employees might face and try to find individuals who are comfortable working in those conditions. Also, managers shouldn’t skip the typical orientation and training sessions for temporary or part-time employees, even if they are only seasonal workers.

“I would never bypass the things you do with full-time employees during the year that keep them engaged,” Daniels said. “Effective orientations — though [they can be] short — help employees understand how important the customer is and what a long way they can go in helping make their holidays brighter.”

Talent managers should also be aware of individual differences in employees’ motivation to work. To bridge generational gaps, talent managers should avoid age stereotypes and remember that all employees want to be treated with respect and be part of a team, she explained. Training and orientation play a big role in creating a feeling of camaraderie.

Lastly, Daniels emphasized that employees’ patience with customers is often directly influenced by the way they are treated by their supervisors and managers, and workers at all levels should be prepared for the holiday season.

“There’s a service chain that starts at the top of the organization and how the leader treats his or her direct reports,” she said. “When there’s a consistent way of addressing people and treating them with respect, that alignment all the way through the organization makes it easier for those working on the front lines to perform and behave with customers as the organization would want them to.”

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