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Career Coach: Showing your holiday spirit during tough times

It’s that time of the year again when the holidays are approaching, and we want to show our holiday spirit at work. How can we do this and make it fun for employees without bankrupting the firm or holding events that nobody is really interesting in attending? I mean, does anyone really want to attend a holiday party when they have gotten their pay slashed for several years? Do they even have time to attend if they are now working a second job or need to get home to get the kids?

There are alternatives to the party. Maybe you can have a “12 Days of Christmas” (or whatever holidays you celebrate) with silly gifts given out each day. Or, have gag gifts (put a couple of “fun” people in charge of getting them for the group), and everyone gets to pick a gift. Maybe you can have silly awards to recognize people for being the “best dressed” or “most energetic” or “the person to arrive the earliest and get the best parking spot.” Have holiday competitions such as decorating cubicles or doors. What’s key is having employees take part in planning whatever festivities or gifts you decide on. If they are involved in the planning, they will be more enthusiastic about participating in the events.

Another thought is to have a party in early January to kick off the New Year instead of in December for the holidays. You could use this celebration to thank people for their hard work the previous year and inspire everyone for the upcoming year. You could plan a wellness day at the office where employees can enjoy healthy lunches, yoga classes or massages. Or host movie day and set up a lounge with movies, popcorn and snacks that people can enjoy throughout the day. Host a boss’s cooking or baking day when executives bring in treats for employees. Set up game day with competitiions such as table tennis, pool, Wii fit or sports, board games, or other fun indoor games. After the December holidays are over, employees might need a morale boost, so this could be perfect timing and something unique.

If you are trying to build team spirit during the holidays, you could plan an outside event like renting a skating rink, bowling alley, laser tag, etc. Get your employees to figure out what type of event would be best suited to their ages and their health. Invite families or set up babysitters onsite for those with kids so adults can relax with their colleagues.

Some organizations like to use the holiday time to give back to the community. They pick a worthy charity and donate their time to help — such as working at a food kitchen or shelter, cleaning a park, or building a house for a needy family. As a group, they dedicate a day to this event. This can really unite a group of managers and employees and help them to see the “reason for the season.”

You might also consider alternatives to other staples of the season, such as cards and gifts.

For cards, many people have resorted to using e-cards and sending them to everyone they know with one generic message. While efficient, does it really serve the intended purpose? Does it mean anything to those who receive one? If you are going to use e-cards, it would help to at least put a personal message in the card. The same thing goes if you send cards via mail to clients or employees. Don’t just send a card to everyone with your name stamped on it. Most people will say that it doesn’t have much meaning to them. If, however, you personally sign the card, write a short message, or even a thank you note the gesture will go much further. In times when you can’t give raises or bonuses, sincere thank you notes can mean a lot to employees.

Be creative about holiday gifts. Make up gift certificates for time off (e.g., longer lunch breaks, late arrivals, early departures, Fridays or Mondays off, etc.) and put them in holiday boxes or envelopes. Hand out gift certificates to their favorite places to go for meals, shopping, relaxation, or entertainment. Bring in a group to wash employees’ cars. I’ve known many bosses who have given out tickets to popular sporting events, shows, musicals and such.

What’s most important about this holiday is to use your own personal style to genuinely share your gratitude for what your employees do each and every day. Then, you will really be sharing the true holiday spirit.

© The Washington Post Company