Let’s face it: IT leaders have plenty on their plates to keep them busy in the run-up to the end of the year, so the last thing you need amid all the craziness of the holiday season is a bunch of personnel headaches. So a few tips on some proactive steps you can take to avoid those headaches might make for a welcome early Christmas present.
David Barron, a labor and employment attorney with the law firm Cozen O’Connor in Houston, has come up with a Twelve-Days-of-Christmas-esque list of things you can do to prevent those personnel headaches from disrupting your IT organization:
Twelve online shoppers: Although some employees shop on their lunch break or at home, many take time out of the work day to cross items off their Christmas list. Solution: Remind employees that some down time is inevitable, but work time is still for work.
Eleven fantasy footballers: Wasting time at work is not an art enjoyed exclusively by shoppers. The holiday season is also football season, and that means fantasy players will be out in full force. Solution: See above.
Ten office party drunks: Some folks continue to believe that getting intoxicated in front of your boss is a good idea (hint — it is not). Solution: Limit the number of drinks at office parties and arrange for safe transportation if needed.
Nine Facebook posters: If you are going to have drunken shenanigans at your Christmas party, the last thing you want is for the evidence to be posted online for the whole world to see. Solution: Review your social media policy and prohibit employees from posting photographs or video without management permission.
Eight whistleblowers: End-of-the-year accounting can be the prime time for irregularities to come to light, and complaining employees can be protected from retaliation under federal and state laws. Solution: Review whistleblowing policy and ensure managers are trained that complaining employees are protected for good faith reports of misconduct.
Seven bonus braggers: Christmas time often means end of year bonuses and the temptation for employees to compare notes on the size of their checks. Solution: It is against federal law to prohibit employees from discussing wages, but a reminder about good manners can be effective.
Six laid-off workers: End of the year planning often leads to budget cuts and, unfortunately, layoffs. It is never a good time to tell someone they are being fired, but it can be even harder around Christmas. Solution: Consider a severance package, which provides a financial cushion for the employee and limits the liability of the company.
Five absentees: No one wants to work around the holidays, and workers will be looking for an excuse to spend extra time with friends and family. Solution: Encourage employees to schedule time off in advance so management can evenly distribute the workload during holidays.
Four gossip birds: A new year usually means big changes in most organizations. The gossips will be out in full force in the month of December looking to stir up trouble with rumors of bankruptcies and corporate takeovers. Solution: Take control of lines of communication and keep employees informed so they don’t have to rely on informal channels.
Three depression victims: Experts say that the holidays are the hardest time of the year for persons with depression or other mental illnesses. Solution: Remind employees that the company has an Employee Assistance Program available for individuals who are stressed out because of the holidays or just need “someone to talk to.”
Two ship jumpers: The beginning of the year is the most popular time for key employees to jump ship. That means the holiday season is the time to steal trade secrets and make plans to solicit accounts, clients or customers. Solution: Review computer security protocols and review whether the company has appropriate written agreements in place to protect against unlawful competition.
One sexual harasser: Christmas parties often bring more than just intoxicated hijinks. Being merry can sometimes mean crossing the line and offending a coworker. Solution: remind employees that respect and professionalism apply not only on work time but also at company-sponsored events like office parties.