The holidays are meant to be a joyous season of tacky sweaters, hot chocolate, and hilarious antics; a time to celebrate the year with your co-workers and bond over general merriment.However, the unfortunate truth for some of our colleagues is that the holidays are a very difficult time.
This is an emotionally-charged season, which carries memories that are warming for some, and painful for others. This time can remind people of regrets, missed loved ones, personal struggles, and addictions that are more difficult to hide.
We spend so much time in close quarters with our co-workers that we may think we know everything about them. This is deceiving because there is so much that folks can't or don't want to bring up at work - and the holidays can cause them to suffer in silence.
As you look towards planning your holiday parties, use your emotional intelligence to create an event that everyone can enjoy. Here are some ideas:
Nix the alcohol and opt for a natural high.
I used to work in an office that had many recovering alcoholics in it. Luckily, we all kept an open dialogue about the issue, so everyone felt supported. But one of the challenges for us in throwing an event was choosing a venue that didn't serve alcohol.
Beer and wine seem essential to most holiday parties because it loosens everyone up. You can achieve the same feeling by planning an activity that forces everyone out of their comfort zones.
Try playing a well-executed icebreaker game. One of my favorites is the one where you give each person a headband with a different celebrity's name on it (which they can't see). Guests have to go around and ask each other questions about their celebrity in order to guess who it is. This usually gets people laughing or talking - even well after the game is over.
Don't make people feel like they have to talk about themselves.
Again, the holidays can be emotional for some people. Forced conversations about vacation plans or holidays past might be painful for some. Instead of leaving them to their own devices, try giving everyone something neutral to talk about.
Splash hosted a really cool event for AdWeek this year called "Barks and Baristas" in which they unleashed 25 dogs into the the party. The adorable pups took the focus off individuals and gave everyone a fun experience to chat about. I thought this was genius, so I solicited Splash's founder, Ben Hindman, to help me with the rest of these points!
Don't leave anyone out.
Winter festivities can sometimes isolate those who don't celebrate mainstream holidays. Go out of your way to make sure everyone in your office feels included in the holiday festivities - regardless of their personal beliefs and background.
Hindman suggests creating a happy, positive space, focusing on lights as the decor. "It's a common denominator of all holiday traditions and is proven to make us feel happy."
Focus on positivity.
If some of your co-workers are feeling blue this holiday season, stealthily generate positivity.
"Feeling grateful is a common trait of all happy people," says Hindman. "Use sticky notes to have people write things they are grateful for on a wall. Then, hire a photographer to create a photo booth in front of those sticky notes. It makes for a really cool back drop!"
Giving to charity also takes the focus off individuals and puts it onto a greater cause. Ben suggests creating a giant holiday card for a chosen charity and give a gift card that everyone signs.
The holidays can be nuts and it's easy to get caught up in it all. This year, let's use the season as a time to gain more insights into our colleagues and show them how much they matter. Happy holidays, everyone!