x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Why should I be left alone in the office over Christmas?

Yes, working over Christmas is not everyone's favourite, but think of what one alternative might be.

I’ve worked through the festive holidays and while I have no problem doing so – it’s something I do every year – I do resent the fact the office is virtually empty.

There are 10 of us working in this small and medium enterprise (SME) and of the 10, eight are away. Should it be right that the boss allocates so many people leave at this time of the year? After all, business life rolls on and it makes it very hard to keep up with all the requests. SM, Dubai.

Hello SM, and dare I even attempt to pass on greetings for the holiday season because even if I did, I’m not sure you’re in the mood to receive. I really wish I could sit down and chat with you as it might just relieve some of your pent-up frustration, while at the same time provide me some insights into unanswered questions from your letter. I will however soldier on and answer the best way I can for now.

In a diverse and multicultural society, there’s bound to be:

Times and celebrations important for some that are not as important for others

Business requirements that require attention at times of all celebrations

Perceived inequity in the balancing act of catering for all employee’s needs over all these celebrations

My response to that is “that’s what is”. At other times of the year I guess you take all the good that such a society offers, so can it be fine and dandy all the time? One of my favourite sayings is “build a bridge and get over it”. In other words, find a way to work through your concerns and decide to be part of a solution. Some choices I would consider to your stated issues include:

Prepare a rotating roster for your boss, one that could be an answer to ensure holidays and business will co-exist next year. Perhaps this roster could split the full shift into two on festive days so one can celebrate in the morning and work in afternoon and vice versa.

Do an analysis that demonstrates the negative impact on business due to being undermanned; this should be a proactive way to begin a conversation with him.

From a practical viewpoint, you could start with a different question than “is it right for all these people to be off at the one time”, such as “with all the people off, I couldn’t keep the flow of orders going, nor deliver all the completed jobs – how do you feel about that, and what is the likelihood of more hands on deck next time”?

Decide how to be the ambassador of fun for those customers who you do deal when you are in the office alone.

If nothing else you’ll be a talking point of all the customers.

For the first five years of my life in Dubai, I too worked every Christmas Day, along with many of my expatriate colleagues. We were in the people business and there was simply no option but to look after our customers first. When I think back, we certainly became creative in ensuring that we had as much fun on that day as our customers, as that was the choice we took. In our case we had a workforce of about 200, so not as small as yours, yet the experience remains positively memorable for me.

Sometimes I believe reality checks are also a great balancing tool. When I look at your scenario from a different angle I see a person with a job and steady income, one that obviously has the respect and trust of the manager, one who is skilled enough to handle the operation single-handedly.

Is it time to ponder what any festive season could look like for you if you were unemployed, unskilled and worked in an establishment where you weren’t trusted?

Doctor’s prescription

A healthy sense of humour and ability to make choices are in the gift I send to you today – apply them as you wish.

Debbie Nicol, the managing director of the Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at debbie.nicol@businessenmotion.com for the Workplace Doctor’s advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague