[LTR] December is our designated "holiday" month. At work we are distracted, fussing over visiting relatives or vacations and juggling our budget to cover gifts. It can also be a time of great sadness and disappointment if the season has not been, or is not, what we hoped. Do we know how our work colleagues approach the holidays?

Depending upon your industry, holidays can create more work (retail) or a concerning cutback. A poll conducted by NBC Dateline and Prevention Magazine found that 41% of the people surveyed, rated the holiday season as very stressful, on par with a job interview. Depression rates increase and tensions are on the rise. That affects work.

There are some workplaces that have a culture of separation of personal and professional lives, but I wonder if that's the best way to invest such a large portion of your waking hours; with people you don't know. If you are a manager or employer, knowing your employees and co-workers approach to the holidays can be an important ingredient in workplace success.

A lot of emphasis has been placed on workplace "diversity training," but understanding faith and cultural backgrounds are only part of what makes up our unique view of the holidays. Also important can be a situation where your co-worker may:

• experience financial stress that will be increased during the season.
• have a history of depression or seem particularly sad during the winter that may be magnified during the season.
• have recently experienced a loss or will re-experience the anniversary of a loss that will influence his/her ability to enjoy the season.
• currently or will be alone during the holidays.
• be responsible for hosting relatives or organizing stressful family events.

Knowing these things can allow you to create a work environment that will bring more joy to everyone. Invite a solitary co-worker, regardless of his/her background, to your family gatherings. Avoid expensive gift exchanges or additional financial burdens if possible. Be sensitive to those who have experienced loss and make time for extra breaks if the workload is especially challenging.

In December the holidays are all around us and are something we cannot overlook in our society. Most of all, remember the workplace is a combination of the beliefs, attitudes and experiences of those at work. As it is up to you, make December 2010 the best ever.

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