Like or lump it, Christmas at work has to be managed. There are decisions to be made on corporate Christmas cards, whether to include the leadership team in ‘secret santa’ and how to deal with those extended lunchtime trips to the pub. Leaders have a festive tightrope to walk, they must ooze Christmas spirit yet strike that delicate balance between office politics, corporate policy and employee relations. 

“The secret of managing Christmas in the office is knowing the ‘Christmas characters’ of those in your team and adapting your management style accordingly,“ says Carole Miller of Tinder-Box Business Coaching

1. Cinderella

Characteristics: Cinderella is the central character to Christmas at work, naturally sensitive to the office politics and the confidant of many, this person puts all their effort in to making Christmas work smoothly. Usually one step ahead of the boss in everything from last minute invitations to arranging the transport home they put others first and themselves last which can result in a last minute decision about what to wear. By the time an office party actually arrives, they may be exhausted but will still get carried away, making it home just past midnight so they can be first in the office the next morning to tidy up.

How to manage Cinderella:  Trust Cinderella implicitly at this time of year, give them free will to reign because now is their chance to shine. Accept that individual work may be sacrificed in aid of a successful festive period. Interruption, suggestions or distractions will not be welcomed until all Christmas duties have been discharged, once they are completed, be sure to publicly acknowledge their contribution, one such acknowledgement will be enough for them until this time next year.

2. The Wicked Step-Mother

Characteristics: “To the wicked step mother Christmas is nothing more than a rude interruption to business as usual. Preferring to ignore Christmas, they take extreme measures to remain detached from colleagues for fear of involvement at any level. The wicked step mother character remains grumpy throughout the whole of December, denies any celebration and may begin to issue numerous tasks with short deadlines in an attempt to dampen any Christmas spirit.  When an urgent meeting is called at 3pm on Christmas Eve, you don’t need to ask who has put it in the diary. 

How to manage the Wicked Step-Mother:  Take care to include the wicked step mother in the activities to demonstrate that they are a valuable member of the team. Show respect that this may not be their favourite time of year and prepare to embrace the energy and joy that they will undoubtedly be expressing on the first day back at work in January.

3. The Ugly Sisters

Characteristics: Christmas is the social highlight of the working year for all ugly sisters and the ultimate excuse to down tools and stop production as early as possible. Filled with enthusiasm yet often lacking sensitivity, they find it difficult to maintain a healthy balance between involvement and office domination at Christmas time. The ugly sister talks at length about their own festive plans which can often disrupt the team. They will attend every party, whether invited or not and are only too happy to spoil the fun of others with unnecessary criticism. They are highly likely to instigate the unofficial Christmas do. 

How to manage the Ugly Sisters: Corporate Christmas policies are made for the ugly sisters. Be sure to communicate both the policies and your personal expectations clearly and consistently, as early in December as possible. Encourage them to remain focused on their own personal performance and remind them of the success and reward which they can achieve by following them. Still struggling?  Harness their enthusiasm and desire to be part of the festivities by inviting them to be part of the office party organising committee and set some stretching yet achievable pre-Christmas tasks.

4. Prince Charming

Characteristics: Prince Charming is not just charming at Christmas, this character is the office darling throughout the year and has many and varied admirers. The epicentre of the Christmas spirit this character puts thought and research into personalising Christmas gifts and goes to extreme personal lengths to include everyone.  Confident and cool, others tend to follow the lead of the prince who will never cease to surprise. If anyone leaves a shoe at the party, you know who will have taken it home for safe keeping.

How to manage Prince Charming: If there is a corporate event that you cannot attend, be sure you ask Prince Charming to take your place. This person is among your greatest Christmas assets. Do not worry about the levels of work this month, they will be well ahead of themselves and will probably have taken more on for others to ensure that they can also attend and enjoy the Christmas party.

5. Buttons

Characteristics: Buttons remains entirely unchanged by Christmas thanks to a strong sense of self, relaxed and pleasant, conscientious and courteous, this character offers practical support whenever it is asked of them, be it decorating the tree or taking the Christmas cards round to the next department to sign.  Should anyone need a shoulder to cry on, it will be Buttons shoulder they will use and towards the end of the night this character will be surrounded by a group of people who have gravitated towards them, just as they do every day, throughout the year in the office kitchen. 

How to manage Buttons: Buttons is your office leveller at this time of year and will keep a healthy balance between festivities and the day to day work that still needs completing. Make sure your door is always open and always take the time to spend with this character, they will provide you with a very balanced view of any office gossip.  Now is the time to encourage Buttons to be the best of themselves; when they decide on a spontaneous collection for the local hospice or a ceremonial turning on of the office lights, their actions almost always benefits others. Praise Buttons in front of others, they can easily get taken for granted.

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