Four tips to cool your boss down during the holidays

Those dreaded “Thank You” emails end up hitting managers harder than the average worker.

Once many employees are back to work after the holidays, they often return to their desks feeling happy about the holidays, ready to return to normal life with less anticipation. Yet as many return to work, bosses also find themselves a tad more distant, or a little less enthusiastic about the future. And while there are many reasons for this, one element is clear: most bosses enjoyed the holidays more than their employees did.

So what gives? How can the bosses and the workers talk through the situation? And most importantly, what’s the best way to defuse tensions before a major deployment?

It is important to remember that holidays are not merely a time to rest and relax. As humans, we need more than just food and rest. There are also lots of responsibilities — such as taking care of family members or keeping appointments with clientele.

Still, feelings of physical and mental overload can still surface for employees, which can cause a disconnect between their employees and their bosses.

When emotions run high and relationships are not working, morale can be low — not just at work, but throughout the office.

What makes a trip down holiday memory lane so different from an annual day off? The workplace, after all, is a very different environment than what most of us experienced when we were home for the holidays.

“Just the thought of returning to the office in the same clothes and getting the same damn coffee as last year can get a lot of people stressed,” says Boston-based psychotherapist Lisa P. Drouin.

She adds, “Unlike home, where having a job provides some measure of security, workers at the office need to adapt to their job, which may mean working extra hours, keeping an open mind to new ideas, and giving with all of their energy and passion. And that’s not always easy for people who have found time and space to unwind and relax.”

Here are a few suggestions to put the fear of returning to work to rest:

1. Be aware of how you make your presence felt. In other words, when is your manager willing to recognize your efforts? Try to identify projects and tasks you’ve performed that clearly and consistently benefited the business — but the boss forgets about, or just doesn’t care about, you. And remind your boss that you’re here, ready and willing to start the new year. “A thank you note is just as nice for someone who made a big difference as someone who brought in the bacon,” says Drouin.

2. Take time for yourself. Say “no” when your boss makes you an offer that doesn’t feel right. When your boss asks for more than you can offer, say so.

3. Do your homework. Learn about your company and its business before the holiday season to ensure that you know the context and expectations for the new year. You’ll be a better listener, closer to your boss and more likely to make sure your expectations and ideas will be well thought out and coordinated. It will also ensure that you’re hitting back.

4. Return to work with a smile on your face. “When you come back to work after the holidays and your head is maybe a little foggy, be mindful of it. There are many reasons why your boss may have a hard time putting you back into your cube. It’s OK if he or she is unhappy about your absence,” says Drouin. “Be nice and try to remember the good things that happened when you were away from the office.”

Earlier in this series:

The writer is a certified coach and freelance writer who specializes in health, wellness and leadership coaching. She is currently participating in the Army Womens’ Research Institute (AWRI) study of women in the military. Her posts will be published through the AWRI website at

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