Here we are at the end of the year entering Christmas holidays and as in most years there seems to be a lot more stress in my life than normal. I guess I can understand why. We have extra things on our plate like buying gifts, putting up trees and outdoor lights, baking, cooking and attending events. On their own, those things seem to bring some joy with them rather than stress as they lead us towards time with our families and some great new memories.
But it feels like it is more than just that. Depending one where you work, it is possible that your business environment is also more stressful at this time of year. Our company is very sales driven, so the end of December is year-end for many of our customers. So while the month tends to be one of our best for sales, workload increases along with the greater number of transactions. On top of the increased volume, as Christmas approaches people start to head out on vacation, so there are fewer people to do the work.
I think there is also a more subtle influence at play here. We think of needing to get things done by the end of the month, then as time slides by we start to realize that the real timeline for many transactions is something like December 23rd, as that is the last day that anyone involved in the transaction will be available to act on it. So panic sets in when people realize that the days they have to complete their work may be drastically fewer than originally anticipated.
So all of this – greater demands on personal time, more work, fewer people, shortened timelines – leads to a lot more stress than usual. A lot of this derives from our desire to do a good job, and our realization that we might have too much on our plate. So there may be a tendency to be more demanding of our team mates so that we don’t feel that we will disappoint our customers, bosses or other stakeholders.
As a result tensions may rise in the office, making it a challenge to feel festive in the festive season.
Christmas is a time for giving, so I’d like to propose that, in our workplaces at least, that the greatest thing we can give our team mates for the holidays (or any other time) is empathy and compassion.
In the field of emotional intelligence empathy compassion is defined as the capacity to join another person with compassion, knowing what it must be like to be them. This includes feeling the other’s pain and joy while staying connected to them.
What a gift we have to give in times of stress!! What if we were able to step back from our own needs, wants and stress for a moment and try to put ourselves in the shoes of our team mates, particularly one we are placing demands on?
In letting go of our own needs for a few minutes, could we inquire into what state our team mate is in with respect to workload, stress, priorities, etc.? What if were able to see our needs as a part of a bigger picture and assess their relative importance when we consider what our team, department, division, company, etc. has on its collective plate?
What if we used that information to re-prioritize our own work, even to the point of asking boss or customer if there is any flexibility in some of our deliverables?
If we were all to use our empathy and compassion at work in this manner, what might be the beneficial effect on team morale, overall productivity and quality of corporate culture?
How about it? Can we try it for the few days before Christmas and see how it goes? Can we acknowledge that this can be a stressful time on everyone, not just ourselves, and seek to be one who knows how others feel?