how to spread holiday cheer at work — without spiking the punch

Are you an influence for good at your workplace? Or are you often a negative force?

You don’t have to be Santa Claus to spread holiday cheer at work. Here are five things you can do to make your workplace a more joyous one this month – and no, we’re not talking about spiking the punch.

1. Spread “good gossip.” You might have a visceral reaction against the idea of gossiping, but good gossip is different from bad gossip. Good gossip means spreading positive thoughts around – things that you wouldn’t mind getting back to the person you’re talking about. For instance, mention how much you like working with Sarah, or how great Joe’s presentation was, or how wowed you are by the new guy’s writing skills. Be sincere, of course, but speak up about this kind of thing! It will make you feel good, please the recipient if it gets back to them, and raise the overall spirits in your office.

2. Help someone when you don’t have to. If you see a colleague struggling to complete a piece of work that you could help with, and you could assist without compromising your own work, offer to pitch in! It could be something as simple as lending an eye and letting a coworker bounce ideas off of you, or offering to edit a memo, or helping to defuse an angry customer, or just pitching in so someone isn’t stuck late at the office. If ever received a helping hand when you really needed it, then you know how grateful your coworker might be – and how much it can create a feeling of camaraderie and cooperation in your office.

3. Thank someone for making your job easier this year. Did a colleague or vendor make your life easier this year? Save your hide with your boss by catching a mistake before it was too late? Make what could have been an arduous project easy and pleasant? Maybe someone was simply a joy to work with on a regular basis. Tell them. Whether you stop by their office to deliver a heartfelt thanks or write a short letter explaining your appreciation, it’s likely to make a huge impression on the recipient.

4. Show up for at least one workplace holiday function cheerfully, even if you’d rather be at home. If you dread office holiday parties (and you’re in good company if you do), make a point this year of showing up and being cheerful about it. You probably won’t be miserable, but if you are, find someone else who looks miserable and talk with them. You can make it your mission to save others from tedium. Or if that’s too Pollyanna-ish for you, at least make an appearance for an hour or so, eat some cookies, circulate, and then head home.

5. Be kind, even if you’re stressed out. Holidays can be a hectic time of year – people are rushing to shop, attend holiday functions, travel, host family, and attend to myriad other obligations. That stress can spill over to work, and you might find yourself being short with colleagues. Make sure you don’t let that happen! Vow to be kind this month, even if your fuse is short and you’re counting down the days until your vacation.

{ 16 comments… read them below }

  1. Snarkus Ariellius*

    I would add one other thing, and it’s just a coincidence that this coincides with today’s advice seeker.

    If you encounter someone who isn’t into the holidays, doesn’t want to attend the holiday party, doesn’t want to do the optional-but-not-really-optional Secret Santa/white elephant/whatever, doesn’t want to decorate, etc., then please leave that person be and don’t ask questions or push.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the receiving end of, “I totally get that you don’t want to participate, and I’m not prying or anything because you can totally do what you want but can you just [rephrase of original request] just this once?”  (Bonus if that question is asked EVERY year.)

    I’m not a total Grinch, but as I get older, I’ve come to be more cognizant of how people feel about the holidays at work.  I try to respect everyone, but the people who are DIEHARD Xmas fans still bug me.

    1. long time reader first time poster*

      And for heaven’s sake, if you have a colleague that doesn’t drink, don’t grill him/her about it! I watched a coworker deftly fend off about a million questions from a less-than-thoughtful colleague about his plans for St. Patrick’s Day this year. It was like the guy couldn’t *comprehend* that his coworker might not enjoy or tolerate alcohol. “What are you going to drink when we go out? A coke? Water? Soda? Will you get a lime in it? Why not just have one? Did you drive today? Or take the train? Maybe just a beer? How about a light beer?” and on and on and on… so cringey.

      1. Anon for this*

        My coworkers are not nearly this bad but some of them do harass me about not drinking. Then they tell me that I will inevitably “give in just like the others” who they say they “pushed and pushed” until they “had just one”. My boss says “Well, Jane was just like you, until I finally pushed her into drinking just one beer.” They have a huge drinking culture. While I do not consume alcohol primarily for religious reasons, it’s also not safe for me to drink due to my personal history and tendencies. TBH, I wouldn’t drink even if I were of a different faith or no faith. I don’t want to be pushed into it — it wouldn’t be “good for me” like they say. I’m not easily coerced, but I still don’t need the pressure. Some days it’s hard enough just keeping myself in check. They wouldn’t push a recovering alcoholic to drink — at least I hope not! My situation is almost as critical. I’m genuinely worried that someone will eventually spike my drink. What do I do to prevent this?

        1. Constress*

          Drink only that which you have opened or poured yourself, and never leave it unattended. If you do, toss it and pour another into a clean glass.

          1. Al*

            I remember being at a party, putting my glass of red wine down – though it remained in my line of sight. A random dude picked it right up, and chugged the rest. I was dumbfounded…even though I was drunk myself. (!)

    2. Felicia*

      Yes this! Forcing this kind of thing on people is not fun, and there is a certain subset of diehard Xmas fans that don’t respect a polite “no thank you”

  2. Alma*

    Lily in NYC, thank you. It is wonderful gift to hear something good about yourself, and know others have heard it, too.

    I encourage everyone to remember the gift of a handwritten letter or note. It is permanent in the way electronic communication cannot be. It is something to put aside and save. Last year I was on a zero budget plan, and wrote personal notes to everyone (especially those around the gift giving table) telling them what a gift their love and friendship – in the workplace this might be thoughtfulness and vision – has meant to me. As they were read, I had the pleasure of seeing each person smile, make eye contact with me, and tuck the card away.

    Time is a precious gift. A handwritten note is very unique. No one else can give the gift of words you are able to share.

    Another idea? I bring in the bags of deluxe coffee people give me (I don’t brew coffee, rather I make espresso at home and have a preference for Cuban coffee) and leave them in the break room so everyone gets to enjoy top notch coffee.

  3. pajh*

    Hiding in the back office reading this while avoiding my own staff party that I organized. Everyone is having a good time (apparently) and they’re mostly running it themselves. I love my staff.

  4. Sadsack*

    How about doing all of the above to spread holiday cheer without wearing jingle bells to the office. I used to work with a woman who wore a little bell on her person for the entire month of December. It jingled when she walked, moved slightly, or even blinked hard. I found it distracting and annoying. Any comments to her about it were met with criticism that the complainant wasn’t cheerful enough. No, attention-seeker, we are at work and your bell is annoying, not cheerful.

    I heard a lady in the bathroom at work today jingling, and I thought oh god not again…

  5. Dr. Doll*

    Oh lord, now I feel really bad for being WAY WAY grumpy this morning even if it was justified. At least it was behind a closed door, but based on the compassionate look my kind student assistant gave me when he left, the frustration leaked out.

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