The holidays have a funny way of revealing which companies just aren't fun enough: if your office isn't a happy place this time of year, it probably never is. Sure, most of us would rather be trimming the tree or drinking warm apple cider at home than slogging through the fourth quarter rat race at work.
But overall, low morale will cost you. Gallup estimates that 20 million actively disengaged employees cost the American economy $450 billion to $550 billion dollars a year. While most of the responsibility for improvement falls on managers, the good news is anyone can help. Here's how:
Make it a point to greet everyone you see that day, use their name, smile and make eye-contact. When was the last time you really laughed at work? Schedule an off-site meeting at a venue that provides more than just a conference room, and leave time to challenge your co-workers to a bocce ball match! Create a fun off-work adventure, like a group paddleboard tour or hire a limo for a night on Broadway. Work with your company on a volunteer project that helps others while helping your office with team-building.
Better your team: Recognize when your colleagues go the extra mile or do excellent work. Sometimes all it takes to change someone's mind about their day is a nice email with an earned compliment. Or better yet, walk to their desk and actually tell them how good they did. It doesn't matter, just acknowledge it!
Better yourself: Your boss should provide you with plenty of ongoing learning opportunities and new tools to help you grow as a team, and as an individual (it's something Gallup researchers found common among the world's top-performing organizations). Take advantage of what's available. And seek out new ways to develop your skills. You just might impress your managers, and they'll likely allow you office time to pursue or pay for any expenses.
Trust and personal responsibility
Managers: Create a place where people want to work by starting small. Show you care by setting the thermostat at a comfortable temperature, and of course, provide good coffee. Now the big stuff: at your next face-to-face meeting, give employees realistic, attainable goals. Of course everyone's main objective is to be the best, but asking employees to double their sales and then being disappointed when it doesn't magically happen overnight is setting your company up for failure (and setting your employees up to resent you). Goals should be realistic, attainable and incremental -- and of course, come loaded with incentives! Address goals that aren't met, and discuss privately with employees who didn't participate. Their feedback can provide perspective and insight into things that you need to do differently, while helping you get to know them.
Employees: Try buying in to the team spirit. Just try to try. Ditch the sarcastic pessimism for a little holiday cheer (and actually go to the company holiday party that someone worked hard to plan). New goals, and the rewards that accompany them, combined with a little friendly competition can work wonders for the mundane workday.
Olivia Tomlin is the vice president of development and operations at Envision Conference Center in Brentwood, Tenn.