Business of Well-being

What Employees Don't Like About the Holidays

Some people love the holiday season, while others really don't. In fact, it seems that a growing number of people make comments like: "I hate the holidays!" (Maybe they are just more vocal about it.) To find out more specifics, last year we sent out a survey to find out what about the holiday season employees don't like- partly for our own education, but also to see if there were practical ideas that, when implemented, could reduce employees' irritation.  

And it just so happens, there are.Over 1,200 of our readers completed our survey (within 24 hours after it was sent out!) Of each of the first two questions, participants were given a list of 15 items from which to choose (the list was generated from focus group interviews), and the respondents were offered the choice of more than one item in response to the questions. Here are the questions and the results:

Q1. What aspects of the holiday season do you DISLIKE the most?

  • 51% Fighting traffic.
  • 39% The extra expense of Christmas.
  • 34% Gaining weight
  • 34% Coming up with gift ideas for others.
  • 31% Expectations to buy others gifts.
  • 28% Coming up with gift ideas for myself.
  • 26% Busyness.

Q2. What don't you like that happens at the workplace during the holidays?

  • 28%  Pressure to get year-end tasks done.
  • 23%  "White elephant" gift exchanges.
  • 22%  Expected to buy gifts for colleagues or supervisor.
  • 21%  Required to participate in "Secret Santa" giving.
  • 20%  Having to attend after hour's holiday celebration.
  • 18%  Having to work on holidays.
  • 18%  Being required to bring food for holiday luncheon.

Some practical tips for employers and managers can be gleaned from the results:

  • Allow ample time for employees to work on the extra year end tasks and reports.
  • Don't force your employees to participate in gift-giving exchanges
  • Be sensitive to scheduling issues and time requirements during the holidays.
  • If you are going to have a meal to celebrate, provide the food.

Additionally, we asked people to write and give us examples of their worst holiday experience related to work. Over 500 individuals shared their stories and some were in the "You've got to be kidding me!" category.  Here are a couple samples:

  • Attending a company holiday party where the electric company arrived to shut off the electricity for non-payment. (I wonder if the staff got paid?)
  • Being told to wear an ugly sweater for the staff party, and being sent home to change - because my sweater was "too ugly"!

Click on this link Survey Stories to read more. One thing I have observed (and learned through personal experience) is that a key component for having a relatively successful holiday celebration is to (ahead of time, and repeatedly) communicate clearly to staff about what they should expect (and what not to expect, if this year is different from prior years). Unmet expectations are the source of disappointment, so please let people know what is going to happen. Cheers!

About the Author

Dr. Paul White is co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, Rising Above a Toxic Workplace, and Sync or Swim. For more information, go to

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