A thought for December from Your Critical Friend

It is December. Winter cold has set in, the trees are naked, days are short and we are getting ready for the winter feast. Some of us are religious and are on the Advent journey to Bethlehem. Some are polishing up the menorah for Hanukkah and some are just decorating trees, panicking over presents and stockpiling food. I am really flattered that you have even paused to read this Thought!

At work, we are trying hard to stay focused but it is very difficult. Customers are fixated on getting things delivered before the holiday shutdown.  People know they are being unreasonable but hope you will do this favour just for them just this once. Some who have been promised pre-Christmas delivery insist on checking too often that everything is on course.  It is just so hard to remain even handed and to continue to be charming.

We are all conscious that unless we are in retail the winter break means that the UK will close on 23 December (or maybe earlier) and resume work on 3 January (in second gear). It is a long time to suspend work projects.

Our employees are struggling too. They also have lives to lead and work is just a part of it. If they have children there are huge demands on them: nativity plays, concerts, presents to buy and wrap for school mates and teachers and all the rest. For the rest of us there are also demands, some of which can be quite tricky!

So, have I any advice?


  • Only you can decide when to bring the drawbridge down on orders for pre-Christmas delivery – depending on your business some of you will have done that back in October or November. Once done, stick to it!
  • Only you can decide which customers are the ones you want to spoil and do favours for. Do it by decision rather than to keep the peace.
  • Do something for the ones you cannot please to acknowledge that you care about them. Maybe it is a Jacqui Lawson card or a tiny box of chocolates.
  • Use the opportunity to reach out to regular customers or those you have not seen for a while. Perhaps something imaginative like sending a small box of tea bags to “Have a cuppa with us”. You will think of something better but which does not embarrass employees as a bribe.
  • Do not be Scrooge most of the year and then become Lord or Lady Bountiful on Christmas Eve. Think what people need in the run up to the holiday. It may be some time off or some flexibility with hours. Remember to be even handed, no favours for the married, women or parents that are not reflected in some way for other groups.
  • This is such a good time to thank your colleagues for doing a good job all year round so think about it and plan it rather than just leaving something to happen. Inevitably you are going to spend money. Do it willingly and thoughtfully. So many offices just end up at the pub and especially for women this is not always a good use of their time.
  • Lots of organisations have a grand function – great if that fits with your culture and as long as the details reflect your culture. Think about it carefully so you get the best bang for your buck.
  • Maybe something different might work well. A couple of ideas that might be much appreciated in addition to the “do” might be to give everyone Christmas Eve afternoon off not as annual leave just as a gift. Another clever idea can be a gift for partners – the ones who have put up with the demands of the job throughout the year with a hand written note appreciating them. Only you will know what might work in your place all I ask is that you plan it and use the opportunity.

None of this is original. We are a hugely creative species so be creative, it does not have to be expensive. Just use the opportunity to appreciate and thank those we work with and for.


If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.