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Brightening this holiday season for your staff

December 16, 2010
by Susan D. Gilster and Jennifer L. Dalessandro
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Don’t let the holidays drag anyone down

In a perfect world, we would all approach December with great anticipation, thinking of that Norman Rockwell Christmas gathering, the opening of beautiful gifts surrounded by a loving family, all followed by a picture-perfect holiday dinner. No doubt, we all strive to provide a meaningful and memorable holiday season for ourselves and our families.

Our staff members are no different. They, too, are feeling the stress and pressure to provide these memories for themselves and their own families. After giving to others all year and during the holidays as well, staff want to be at home when not scheduled (often not on the holiday itself) to enjoy their families, gifts, and dinners as well. We will all be fighting the crowds while shopping, determining what to give each family member, and worrying about how to stay within budget. Many of us might not necessarily be looking forward to gatherings with immediate and extended families, causing us to lose focus on the true meaning of the season. Whether it is Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, or Christmas, staff may be approaching a holiday that may or may not be as meaningful or joyous as they desire.

As leaders we must acknowledge that the holiday season isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. It is important to be in touch with employees and acknowledge that the additional stress of the holiday season affects everyone’s personal life. And while most of the year our employees can leave their personal troubles behind, it seems the hope for the holiday season is simply too overwhelming to leave at home.

To ease this stress on staff, be gentle with one another and extend a hand to your colleagues. Remember, when someone seems overly tense or irritable, it may simply be the holiday hassle. Forgive them without saying so. Offer a friendly ear or if necessary, a shoulder to cry on. An excellent way to lighten the mood is to share a laugh—or a hug.

Embrace the “reason for the season,” and facilitate ways in which you can all help others together. Nothing takes your mind off of your own troubles quite like doing something to help another. Have your facility participate in a coat drive for kids, or hold a collection for a local food bank. Adopt a family in need of holiday gifts or meals, and watch in wonder as your staff members excitedly participate. You will be amazed at their enthusiasm and generosity. The holiday spirit will be alive and well.

Think of all of the blessings in your life. Write them down, share them with others, and encourage colleagues to do the same. Do something kind for another person, without expecting anything in return and keep it to yourself—this holds the greatest power of all.

The holiday season may be a time of stress and worry, but it should also be a time of appreciation, joy, and fun. And you can help to make it that way—at least at work!


Susan Gilster, PhD, FACHCA, NHA, Fellow, developed the Alois Alzheimer Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, which opened in 1987 as the first freestanding dementia facility in the United States.

Jennifer L. Dalessandro, BS, NHA, is the Assistant Administrator and Research Coordinator of the Alois Alzheimer Center and has helped it evolve into a person-centered facility.

For more information, phone (513) 673-1239 or visit www.careleadership.com or www.alois.com.

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