3 Holiday Pitfalls That Can Derail Your Career
I’m actually a sucker for the holidays. I wasn’t raised in any religion, so for me it’s all about love, fellow-feeling, generosity of spirit. I love the extra time with family and friends, the special treats of food and drink…and I’m not averse to a present or five.
At the same time, I’m well aware that not everyone shares my starry-eyed sentimental feelings. Some folks would rather forget the whole season, finding it overly commercialized, or smarmy, or both. And some people feel downright Grinchy about the holiday season, and would rather take a pass on the entire month of December.
Regardless of your personal feelings about the season, there are definitely some career minefields scattered throughout the end of the year. Here are 3 big ones, and some ideas for steering around them:
1. DON’T slack off. I was talking to a client the other day who told me that one of her direct reports
courtesy Suzanne Tucker
told her he was taking two weeks off over the holidays, citing family events, travel and parties. Unfortunately, he has only been working for her for a few months, and the culture in their company generally supports taking off only a few extra days around the holiday. The office isn’t closed between Christmas and New Year, and it’s more or less business as usual. As a result, rightly or wrongly, she’s now questioning his commitment to the job.
When it comes to taking personal time over the holidays – whether it’s time off, leaving early, long holiday lunches, even multiple work parties, be aware that your choices will be looked at within the context of your overall work record – you don’t get an automatic free pass because it’s the holidays. Consider what’s standard procedure at your job; what folks at the level above you do; how your boss views your work ethic in general. Then make the decisions that, insofar as possible, give you some time for fun and family while still letting your organization know that doing great work is an important priority for you – all year.
2. DON’T be self-righteous. A few years ago, I watched as one woman alienated nearly all of her co-workers by pointedly and pretty continuously pointing out how Christmas-themed the company’s holiday efforts were, and that other traditions and religions weren’t represented, or only in a token way. Her comments were framed as complaints: “The company never…” or “I can’t believe they don’t…” and had a strong element of moral superiority. It definitely put a damper on people’s holiday spirits, and even made them hesitate and second-guess themselves before expressing any form of holiday good wishes. I noticed that it had a negative impact on people’s perceptions of her overall; they (including her boss) saw her as more critical, judgmental and less supportive overall as a result.
Her perceptions weren’t the problem – it was how she expressed them. If you feel your organization or your department is over-focusing on one holiday tradition, and that others aren’t being acknowledged or represented, speak privately with the people responsible — your boss, HR, the events team — and make requests or offer suggestions and solutions, rather than complaining. For instance, saying, “How about if we put up a menorah alongside the Christmas tree in the lobby?” will create a very different impression than saying, “It’s completely unacceptable that we only have Christmas decorations!”
3. DON’T cross the line. Holiday cheer – of the alcoholic variety – is an integral part of most office celebrations at this time of year. A few glasses of bubbly or a couple of beers with colleagues can be a great way to let down your hair and get to know each other better. However, I’ve known a couple of people over the years who have lost their jobs specifically because of behaviors that arose from over-indulging.
The simple solution: limit yourself to 2 drinks. If you can’t or don’t want to do that, then get someone you know and trust to “spot” you, and agree that they’ll remove you from the scene if you start saying or doing weird things.
So have a wonderful holiday season, and start the new year with your professional reputation intact.