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Top 3 December Headaches for Business Leaders

December 04, 2018

  • Teams

Is December really the “most wonderful time of the year”? It can be for those celebrating holidays, but it’s also a time for stress. According to a 2015 survey conducted by Healthline, a consumer health information site, 90% reported elevated levels of stress during the holidays. If your job is to run a large team or manage a complex business unit, the stress can pile up.

As SVP of HR for more than two decades I developed a good feel for the annual business cycle at medium and large companies and a few of the headaches that business leaders face on top of all the holiday stress. Here are the top three, along with some helpful remedies.

Budgeting Concerns

Managing a budget can be a stressful way to end the year. Do I cut? Or invest for next year? I work with many firms that use prior-year based budgeting. Often this comes with the dreaded use-it-or-lose-it rule at the end of the year, meaning business leaders have to make complex and stressful decisions under time pressure.

Before rushing to spend money on capital investment, like office furniture that might sit in a warehouse for 10 months, I recommend investing in your human capital. We work with many companies that purchase credits for employee development in December. These credits contribute directly to productivity goals when used in January.

Productivity Pressure

I used to work with a company that basically got no work done between December 18th and January 3rd every single year. Downtime and vacations are crucial for employee well-being, but losing 5% of the year can be difficult for a growing or struggling business to absorb.

Even when your employees are in the office, there are plenty of distractions. Cyber Monday is an entire event around workplace distractions. And employees also have to deal with added personal stressors, such as difficult family dynamics and strain on time and financial resources. This can take their minds off work and make it more difficult to get things done.

I recommend planning around the inevitable interruptions. If your office is quiet, use the time for focus work, such as long-term strategy. If your employees are especially prone to distractions during the holidays, it might be time to include some development or engagement initiatives in that long-term strategy.

Goal Anxiety

Have you or your employees hit your goals for the year? Are you planning appropriately for next year? These questions can be difficult to answer, especially if you’ve fallen short or unexpected challenges have come up during the goal period. In addition, there are Employee Evaluations to deal with. I know executives that have to squeeze in 20 separate Performance Evaluations before the end of the year. The pressure and time can be overwhelming, while taking time away from other important objectives and goals.

At the end of the year your employees may be evaluating their own personal satisfaction. What if their New Year’s Resolutions are to find better jobs? They may be craving a new challenge, a better fit, or more personal development. The number one thing I find that helps keep people engaged is when business leaders invest in understanding and appreciating their strengths. I find that assessments like the Kolbe A™ and B™ Index help pinpoint employee’s innate strengths and stressors before they turn into disengagement and unnecessary turnover.

How do you deal with end of year stress? Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below.

I’ve helped dozens of executives and my own teams make December less stressful by investing ahead, getting more productive, and developing their teams. Ping me and I’ll find 10 minutes between company holiday parties and budgeting reviews to help you get ahead in December. It may not be the “hap-happiest season of all” in every regard, but holidays don’t have to be all headaches for enlightened executives

About the author:

Frank Reid has more than three decades of experience in leadership roles in human resources and has worked both domestically and internationally in the insurance, financial services, information services and software industries. Throughout his career, Frank has gained extensive experience building highly effective teams, developing talent, and promoting consistent business practices across such organizations such as Elsevier Corporation, Ceridian Corporation, and Thomson Reuters Corporation. As executive vice president, Frank is responsible for managing Kolbe Corp’s business development efforts with large corporate accounts.

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