As amazing as it may seem, the 2018 holiday season is now upon us! With Thanksgiving behind us, we’re now fully involved in the crush of festivities and holiday shopping that traditionally mark the beginning of the sprint to New Year’s Eve. This is the season of peace on earth and good will towards our fellow man, right? Well…not always.
The Hallmark version…
Historically, the holiday season conjures up images of happy get-togethers, friends and family, food and spirits, gifts and parties, and the warm feeling one gets from knowing that all is well with the world. Everyone we encounter is expected to be happy and “in the spirit!” But not everyone experiences the holidays in that way. Talk to any psychiatrist, psychologist, EAP professional or mental health provider specializing in family issues and they will undoubtedly paint a less optimistic picture.
Holidays in 2018…
Aside from the pleasant feelings expressed above, the holidays also have the uncanny ability of producing high levels of stress, feelings of depression, and sometimes, misdirected anger. Mental health professionals will tell you that this is one of their busiest times of the calendar year. Let’s be honest; most of us attempt to do too much during this limited time frame. We have a tendency to over schedule and indulge ourselves with food and drink, and often times we spend too much on gifts, leaving a sense of exhaustion and even resentment towards family, friends and coworkers.
Those without close family or loved ones feel the weight of spending the holidays alone. Left unchecked, these negative feelings and stressors can lay the groundwork for short tempers, organizational conflict, and inappropriate behavior up to and including workplace violence and suicide. HR professionals are charged with protecting the enterprise, which surely includes protecting your most important resource…the human resource! What then can you do to assist employees during this challenging season?
Workplace Safety, What you can do…
As guardians of the corporate culture and workplace safety, you are uniquely positioned to provide a sense of support and inclusion to those in need through educational programs, immediate intervention, and psychological support in the form of Employee Assistance Programs. It is incumbent upon you to provide guidance and counsel to your managers and supervisors by helping them to recognize the signs and symptoms of employees who may be in trouble.
We often expect managers and supervisors to know how to effectively intervene and interact with a troubled employee without providing them with the basic tools they need to identify someone in distress. Behaviors such as isolationism, lack of humor, lack of focus, negativity, excessive conflict with associates, trouble sleeping, absenteeism, and in general, a bleak outlook on life can all be signs of depression. These feelings and behaviors can easily be exacerbated during the holiday season…sometimes, with deadly consequences.
While there may be valid reasons for displaying temporary periods of questionable behavior, prolonged or intensifying displays of behaviors similar to those described above can indicate a more serious problem. Managers and supervisors should be taught to:
• Recognize the signs and symptoms of inappropriate behavior
• Intervene as soon as possible, and/or as soon as appropriate
• Document all interactions and recommendations made to the employee
• Suggest appropriate internal resources and support programs, usually in the form of Human Resources and EAP Programs
• Impose discipline and corrective actions, as appropriate
• Assist the employee in reintegrating into the workforce
Remember…as a manager or supervisor you always have the right, and in fact the obligation, to intervene around behaviors that endanger the well being of coworkers or the overall success of the organization and workplace safety. Your timely intervention might very well result in getting the employee the help he or she needs to survive, and even enjoy, a stressful holiday season!
The holiday season can also be a good time to remind managers and supervisors about the appropriate use of EAP and Work-Life Programs. These programs, offered as an employee benefit, can vary widely…ranging from “800” telephone numbers resulting in immediate referrals, to programs involving three to eight visit models that include face-to-face counseling and support. Some organizations support mandatory referrals, while others do not. It is important that managers and supervisors understand the specific model and intricacies of the program utilized at their organization.
In addition to extending the services listed above, Human Resource professionals might also consider the following holiday suggestions for workplace safety:
• Remember that holidays often center around families…consider being more flexible with schedules
• If your organization celebrates with a holiday party, remember diversity…it’s important to honor and include all of your employees
• It’s a good idea to limit or exclude alcohol from company-sponsored holiday celebrations
• Remember that this is not a joyous time for everyone…monitor employees who may be struggling and be prepared to extend a compassionate hand.
Following these simple steps can provide the basis for a happy, healthy and most importantly, safe holiday season. I invite you now to join me in bidding farewell to 2018…and welcoming a bright and prosperous 2019!