“What I really want from my employer for Christmas,” the employee said, “Isn’t the ham the company expediter delivered. I want what matters more–direct and honest communication, flexibility, empathy, and leadership.

Do you wonder how to wish your employees happy holidays this year? Do you deliver gift packages?  Email bonus checks? Both great gestures.

Or do you give them gifts that last longer–more of what they want and need in their jobs?

Direct and honest communication

“It was bad enough that our managers kept us in the dark before COVID, but now the uncertainty is almost impossible to bear,” the employee said. “How can we make contingency plans to take care of our families? It would be one thing if managers didn’t know what was in in the works either, but we learn after they layoff employees that they have planned these layoff for weeks.”

If you believe your employees are your company’s most important assets, say so by sharing what you see as your organization’s next steps. Even bad news feels better than no news. It shows your employees you respect them, and realize they need to make plans, just like you.

If you keep employees posted, you leave them fearing the worst.

If you’re wise, you’ll also ask employees to share their concerns and ideas. Questions like, “How has remote work worked for you this week?” shows empathy (for a complete discussion of empathy as a Christmas gift, watch for December 24th’s blog post).

Communication creates connection and reduces last-minute surprises and weekly phone calls cost nothing but may mean a lot to a remote site worker.

When your employees talk with you, listen–even and especially when you don’t agree with what they say. If your employees offer you great ideas, take action on what’s said. Your employees have given you a gift; now it’s your turn.

Real-life example for how communication on even small issues means a lot

When a beauty salon asked me to facilitate an evening team meeting for their stylists, tensions erupted before I arrived. An overworked stylist had taken a late-arriving customer to the shampoo bowl only to find out after she shampooed the woman’s head that the bowl didn’t drain.

The manager knew of the problem and had already called a plumber but not remembered to tell the stylist. “I felt stupid,” the stylist said. “It irritated the customer to be moved and there went my tip. Management expects us to take care of the customers, but they don’t take care of us.”

The simple fix we agreed to that evening – a white board alerting all stylists to any changes in products or equipment so they wouldn’t face unpleasant surprises.

Can you do something similar so your team can navigate their job duties without being blindsided by what you knew but forgot to tell them?

Connection matters

Pre-pandemic, many employees considered one or more of their coworkers to be extended “family”. When these employees arrived at work, they shared their stories, blew off steam, and sought advice. Remote work, hunker-down orders, and small social bubbles leave employees to face challenges solo. Phone calls, texts, and sterile Zoom meetings don’t replace casual, “just running into you in the breakroom” conversations.

Pre-COVID-19, we casually chatted with those we ran into when running errands. We might end the encounter with a warm goodbye or even a hug. Now, we not only don’t hug, we may even back away when spotting acquaintances.

Knowing many of their employees may feel socially adrift, wise managers do their best to mitigate workplace isolation by fostering healthy team relationships. A week ago, after learning that the leadership group I trained included a break dancer, a singer, and a variety of other great talents, I suggested that they create a series of Zoom-based talent shows for their staff, to bring back into the workplace the warm feeling of connectedness.

Reaching out and making questions safe

Before COVID-19 decimated many workplaces, when employees felt unsure about how to complete an assignment, they didn’t worry about stopping by their manager’s or supervisor’s office and saying, “this doesn’t make sense”.

Now, they hesitate. Will their voiced confusion lead their manager or supervisor to select them rather than another for the next round of layoffs?  

Further, since managers and supervisors can’t drop by an employee’s work site to orally relay instructions, many managers and supervisors write brief, often open to misinterpretation, instructions. The fix? Managers and supervisors need to re-read the instructions they give and then pick up the phone and invite employee questions on assignments.   

What will you give your employees this holiday season? How about gifts that last longer and provide employees more of what they want and need?

If you enjoyed this post, part 1 of 5-part series, please look for part 2 “flexibility”https://workplacecoachblog.com/2020/12/flexibility-what-employees-want-need-for-christmas-2020-part-2/ (12/23); part 3 “empathy” https://workplacecoachblog.com/2020/12/what-employees-want-for-christmas-2020-someone-who-gets-it-part-3-of-a-series/(12/24); part 4 “gratitude”https://workplacecoachblog.com/2020/12/a-christmas-new-years-surprise/ (12/28), “leadership & the way forward” (12/30) and professional development (12/31/20). And, as always, I love receiving your comments and your questions in https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ 

You might like the actionable strategies in Managing for Accountability: A Business Leader’s Toolbox, Business Expert Press, 2021, https://amzn.to/3xAptnz

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.  www.workplacecoachblog.com.

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7 thoughts on “What Employees Really Want for Christmas

  1. really listenint and reaching out and making questions safe–these suggestions make sense, and as your comments suggest, may be harder to implement than an employer might think, But well worth the effort!

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