Preface: This was originally published on Christmas Day of 2008, appearing on Say “Alaka‘i,” the weekly business column I had then written for the Honolulu Advertiser, (thus the Hawai‘i community references) with the title, It’s Christmas, and You’re at Work. My appreciation for those who work the holidays has grown immensely since that time, for each year my empathy grows; not in the “been there, done that” sense I mention here, but for what Christmas Day can mean when you are with your family, and you celebrate in concert with the rest of the world. Therefore, I have added a new postscript at the end for bosses.
On Christmas, You’ll be at Work
Growing up, my brothers, sister and I were very lucky during most major holidays like Christmas; though our parents both had full time jobs (and sometimes three between them), they had holidays off in the industries which employed them.
It wasn’t to be that way for my two kids. I chose the hotel business for most of my working career, and so did my husband, and for us, holidays and weekends were just another working day. Christmas wasn’t necessarily the 25th of December until I became self-employed, it was whatever day proved most convenient within the week, ‘convenient’ meaning we were all home at the same time to open the gifts we gave each other without rushing through it, torn wrappings scattered around us in some frenzy.
If you are working today, feeling like everyone else is sitting under the family tree without you, I know your pain. Been there, done that. In fact, much as I hate to admit it now, I was lousy at it for way too many years. I grumbled, I whined, I moaned and complained, and I believed that working on Christmas was just plain wrong, and thus I’d been wronged. I got a big fat zero out of it, going through the motions of whatever I was expected to do, until I finally realized my problem — me.
You see Christmas is not “just another day.” It can be whatever you want it to be, even though you may have to be at work. The trick with making the most of it, is Ho‘ohana, and to be “at work” versus simply stuck “at a workplace.” Big difference.
Have today be the day you work on those things you happen to do best while at work, knowing that you are the best at doing them. To be sure, fulfill those responsibilities you fully realize you have (your Kuleana; you know why someone feels you have to be there), but fulfill them in the way that amounts to you being a certain kind of confident, happy, and unselfish gift-giver. Give the rest of the world the best of you and who you are.
There may be some of you reading this who are thinking, “Easy for her to say; the woman always says there’s a bright side to everything.” Yeah, I’ve heard that before, and yeah, you’re right, I do always say that — now, and I’m proud of it. It took me awhile, and I’m not regressing now! I’ve learned that you just can’t BE positive by merit of some instantly inspired decision; you have to choose to work at it. You’ve got to move through it, loving the working, the managing and the leading. It’s called self-management, and self-leadership. You have to choose to practice having a good attitude no matter what cards you’re dealt, using every ounce of good within you, and you have to want to be a workplace star — and a happy person.
And one more thing: None of us have the right to take out our grumblings about anything on other people. Not on the holidays, when so many have such huge expectations, hoping they get fulfilled miraculously, and not ever. Not on any day. People deserve better from us, their fellow human beings, especially because we’re always capable of better, marvelous creatures that we are. I believe that is the gift we were given on the very first Christmas Day: Profound ability, capacity, and creative possibility is our gift. The positive expectancy of us by others is both our challenge and our obligation to fulfill.
So if you have to work today, I’m not going to say I feel sorry for you. I’m not going to apologize for someone else having scheduled you, and I’m not going to listen to any of your grumbling ~ be forewarned: I will instantly delete any whiny comment today!
A rising tide lifts all boats.
I expect you to dazzle me and be the star you are meant to be. I know you have it in you, and I want to see it, hear it, feel it, and I will applaud you. I’ll applaud you even though I probably won’t have to: If you pull it off, like I finally did one golden year I kicked my own butt and changed my attitude (because most managers were way too soft on me), you’ll feel so good, so right, so whole, so filled with your own Aloha Spirit that my applause will just be icing on your own well-baked cake.
If by chance I do visit you today, I promise you I will be a good customer, good guest, good visitor, and happy person too. Smile at everyone you see, greet them. Get them to smile back and greet you too because they just can’t help themselves, and they can’t ignore you or take you for granted, you are so wonderfully THERE for them.
It takes two of us, it takes all of us to make our Hawai‘i nei the land of Aloha we say it is. To feel Aloha from each other, we each have to be absolutely obsessed with giving it, and giving it in those biggest bummers of circumstances.
Thank you for working for our Hawai‘i community today. I mean it: Sincerely, genuinely, mahalo nui loa. It takes a lot of good work for our society to function as it does, all kinds of important work, work that just can’t stop, or shouldn’t, and work that can shine in the bliss of the holidays.
Mahalo for all you do, and who you are, and Mele Kalikimaka, a very merry and magically miraculous Christmas. I pray that blessings rain down upon you the whole day through, just as Christmas Day should be.
A postscript for the independent worker:
If your work is normally done solo or independently, or you are tied to a desk, cubicle or workstation of some sort, please do whatever you can to not be alone too much of today.
Choose to make your Christmas Day jubilant. If you have a choice in the work you do, choosing how you get it done, seek to serve and give the talented and joyful you, given while in the company of other people. Take those breaks which are coming to you by starting some fun conversations, have your lunch or dinner break with other people, and every so often, get on the phone and call someone you care about to wish them a Merry Christmas. Choose to do the work which connects you with others so you can share in each other’s day, and be each other’s gift.
Related Reading in the Archives: People who do Good Work
A postscript for bosses:
I had written the posting above for the worker’s point of view, knowing that you’re a worker too, likely with another boss of your own, and needing to take the viewpoint of Aloha to heart. What I also urge you to do, is to take a moment to truly understand what having to work today can mean to your ‘Ohana in Business: Think about what they give up to be in your workplace, and work with you as your best partner. Allow those thoughts to soften your heart, but at the same time, resolve to be the best possible boss today, and not shy away from whatever that takes.
Leave ‘the work’ of your industry to others today (those partners you employ), being sure you’ve scheduled amply enough to cover it and prevent unnecessary stress, and then, let those partners know they can take the holiday off from serving you.
Then, do nothing on these holidays but manage well: Be the energy bunny and good mood presence that great managemeant is all about. No paperwork, office work, or administrative work that can wait for another day. No strategic work that is future-forward in thinking either: Be completely present instead, as a presence that matters. Keep great promises as the work of your day.
Better managers, are better people. Be with your people in all they do, and keep tabs on the ebb and flow of your business levels, so you can release them to celebrate the day with their family and friends as soon as you are able to. Be with your customers, visitors, and guests, and infect them with your Aloha Spirit so theirs will also bubble to the surface, and wash over your workplace with joy.
You are so, so important today.
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