Beware: NOT the Season to be Jolly for Everyone!

Jann Freed Leading Leave a Comment

Tis the season to be jolly?  Maybe and maybe not.  This post is written for people who are in the position to influence the lives of others.  Not all people are jolly at this time of year.

The other day I was in one of my favorite coffee shops.  This coffee shop is much like the old TV show “Cheers” where the regulars (like me) are real loyalists even though there is no wi-fi and the baristas are nice, but not the fastest.  Maybe these are the reasons we tend to frequent.

I saw one of the regulars before the holidays and said to him, “Happy holidays” and he stopped me in my tracks with his response.  “I am not happy at this time of year.  It brings back too many sad memories.”  While I did not probe, it was a reminder to me to be sensitive to what this time of year can trigger.  Last week, I heard the song by Faith Hill “Where Are You Christmas” and I thought of my friend at the coffee shop.

Our church started a “Blue Christmas” service for those in mourning.  Last year, I attended as my mom had died in October and it was a way to process the loss.  But there can be all kinds of reasons why people might feel blue and it usually involves loss–of a friend, pet, partner, family member, or of a job.  Grief in the workplace is real and leaders often struggle with how to deal with it.  It is important to acknowledge that not everyone is jolly and to be supportive.  In fact, learning how to deal with grief at work was one of the key surprise themes in my book Leading with Wisdom:  Sage Advice from 100 Experts.  

In the past year, I have blogged about the loneliness epidemic.  Social media can be an illusion that we are connected, linked together, following one another, or have even too many “friends.”  When in reality, many people are lonely (which is different from being alone) and isolated.  This can be magnified by the fear of missing out (FOMO).

If you are in the position of influencing the lives of others (boss, parent, coach, teacher, pastor), then be aware that not everyone is jolly.  This time of year is full of “triggers” –rituals that bring back memories and not all are likely to be positive.  There may be empty chairs at the table. So …

  • Use your emotional intelligence to be sensitive and understanding.
  • Don’t assume everyone feels as you do.
  • Offer support if needed.

I read a book on compassion and the definition was:  Compassion is empathy in action.

My wish for leaders at this time of year is that they demonstrate qualities that bring out the best in people:

compassion, honesty, support, and understanding. 

I just finished teaching my graduate leadership course and this was one of the conclusions.  While leadership seems like it is all common sense, common sense is not that common.  One of my favorite question is:

Would you follow yourself?

As Simon says:  Be the leader you wish you had.–Simon Sinek

At the end of 2019, I am leaving you with one of my very favorite holiday songs.  I absolutely love these words by John Denver.  “Christmas was more than just a special day.  It was more than a beautiful story.  It was a special way.”

“Say a prayer for the wind, and the water, and the wood.  And those who live there too.”