Lynne Curry: Employees wanted extra holiday time off

ManagementJanuary 13, 2013 

Q. My office manager just forwarded me a series of emails our administrative assistant sent one of our accounting people. Both ladies have spouses who work for overly generous employers who gave employees Dec. 31 as well as Jan. 1 as paid holidays.

Our company didn't. Further, I don't think most employers gave these two days off as paid holidays.

Unfortunately, I don't know how to prove this and ever since New Year's Eve my two employees have been emailing back and forth about Scrooge employers who expected employees to return after a weekend to work "just one day" before another day off.

Help. Was I out of line to expect my employees to work Dec. 31? Our customers certainly expected we'd be available for calls and questions. More importantly, I'm wondering what's going to happen in July, when the Fourth is a Thursday. Will employees expect Friday off as well for two paid holidays?

A. If you didn't give your employees New Year's Eve off as a paid holiday, you're in line with 8 out of 10 employers. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 78.1 percent of U.S. employers required that employees work the day before New Year's. Further, more than half, or 56.4 percent, of U.S. employers required their employees to work Dec. 24.

At the same time, when your employees consider you a Grinch because you don't provide the same generosity their spouses' employers do -- as happens to most private sector employers when state, federal and municipal employers give extra paid holidays -- your best strategy is the truth. Let your employees read the full SHRM survey, which will additionally surprise them with the information that 89 percent of U.S. employers will expect their employees to work July 5, or to use a day of paid time off (PTO) if they want a four-day weekend.

That said, more may be happening in your workgroup than simply anger over the lack of an additional paid holiday. When employees enjoy their work and have a good relationship with their supervisor, they don't send supervisor-denouncing emails to each other over one decision.

Three possibilities exist:

First, you may be a Grinch. Do you treat your employees with generosity or stinginess all year long? If you're stingy with your employees in flexibility and praise, you're penny wise and pound foolish. Employees commit full effort to help their companies succeed in direct proportion to the degree their supervisors commit to their employees' success.

Ask yourself, what have you done for your employees this week -- or do you expect that pay adequately compensates your employees? Without an occasional psychological paycheck, employee morale and productivity dwindles.

Second, your employees may be "working" you. How did you learn about their emails to each other? My guess: One of them or another employee who secretly agreed with the two who consider you Scrooge "let" you learn about the venting. Employees quickly learn when a supervisor has an easily reached button and pressure their supervisor by letting them know their employees resent their supervisory decisions.

Third, while your holiday schedule falls in line with most employers', you may want to truly consider your employees' need for work/life balance. Although I read the SHRM survey and learned most employers didn't grant Dec. 24 or 31 as a paid holiday, I gave our employees both days off, realizing that generosity goes a long way in maintaining team morale. Or, if an extra paid holiday would break the budget, what if you allowed a day of guilt-free unpaid leave -- which many employers did the day after Thanksgiving and will do July 5?

Finally, address this situation right away -- make 2013 a year in which you offer all your employees a workplace free from festering discontent.


Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at lynne@thegrowthcompany.com. You can follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10.

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