The holidays are a time of joy and gratitude-- and a break room filled with cookies and eggnog. While your team is likely buckling down to hit company goals and end the year on a high note, that doesn't mean, however, that certain things don't sting around the holidays.

Favoritism, overlooked accomplishments and heightened expectations can all drag your teammates down. The danger in blunders right before a break is that people have more time to ruminate -- and the last thing you want is to attempt high growth in 2020 with employees stuck on what happened in 2019.

Here are three faux pas to avoid during your celebrations:

1. Remember that gifts flow down, not up. 

I'd never considered gift-giving with bosses a real concern until I worked with a marketing company. I sat with different team members in November to put my finger on the pulse of their culture and make some high-growth recommendations. Teammates brought up a few different issues, but each conversation ended on the same note: They were worried about gifts for their bosses.

The year prior, one executive had put pressure on the team to get a unique gift for another executive to "show their appreciation." The team understood that that meant that they also needed to get this executive a token of appreciation. All told, the team had spent $300 buying and shipping the perfect gifts -- and that didn't count the time spent researching and discussing.

The easiest and most obvious solution: Make it clear that you don't want your teammates to give you gifts. Tell them to spend their time and money on the people who support their lives outside work and make their time with you possible.

2. Avoid awards or honors that may lead to discomfort. 

A lot of businesses like to recognize high performers with end-of-year awards. Data-driven honors like "Most Sales Closed" or "Highest Volume of Calls Managed" typically don't result in hard feelings. (That is, unless you're rewarding salespeople who set up terrible contracts or call center staffers who rush through calls -- but those are issues you should be managing year-round.)

A CEO friend of mine told me that team-nominated awards backfired at his company. He thought letting people select the winners of the awards would be a good thing. Instead, team members were given honors that sounded like high school superlatives, like "Most Likely to Be a Millionaire." While it was a democratic vote, there were more than a few hard feelings from would-be millionaires on the team.

The best thing is to avoid subjective awards altogether. If it's not verified by data, it shouldn't be announced. But take a look closer at your awards system: Do you need to select an Employee of the Year? Is the morale payoff for that one employee worth the hurt feelings of several others?

3. Be cognizant of people's need to relax. 

I know how much stress you likely feel at the end of the year when you look at your projections compared to your actual performance. I, too, feel the need to kick things into high gear and knock it out of the park. I have a nearly superstitious belief that if I end one year well, that momentum ensures a great start to the next.

This isn't foolproof, however. One December, I frantically ran around like a chicken with its head cut off. I zoomed from one end of the office to the other, helping every single person I could. I thought that super-high productivity on my part would lift everyone up. During a one-on-one meeting with one of my best employees, she admitted she was stressed. Confounded, I asked how -- we were performing twice as well as expected! "Your stress is kind of infecting the whole office," she said.

Make sure you're getting the self-care you need. If you're feeling anxious, take a walk. Grab a real lunch. Do something that has nothing to do with work, whether it's seeing a matinee or visiting your kid at daycare. Reminding yourself that there's more than work will not only ensure that your teammates start the holidays with a sense of peace and calm, but that you will, too.

As an entrepreneur, there's an end-of-year intensity that's hard to describe to others. The actions you take now impact how everyone starts the next year, not just you. Buying gifts and traveling to visit relatives is already stressing your team out -- don't become another source of stress. Take the time to think about how your words will be received; you won't regret it when the new year rolls around.

Published on: Dec 10, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.