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5 Positive Practices that Bring the Spirit of the Holidays to Work 

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

I always thought fall was my favorite season, but I think I’m falling in love more with winter the last few years. Starting with November and Thanksgiving (technically fall, I know, but Michigan weather makes you forget that) to January and New Year’s, we get to enjoy so many celebrations (especially in my family where all of our birthdays fall in that time too!). Many of us enjoy the holidays — the way we connect with others, take the time to celebrate, engage in reflection — and the time off work doesn’t hurt either. But wouldn’t it be great if we could take the spirit of the holidays with us into our everyday lives as work starts up again in the new year? Positive Organizational Scholarship is the key.

1. Reflect to Appreciate Yourself and Others

The holidays offer an opportunity to share the reasons that you’re grateful for the people around you. What strengths do you notice in them? How do they show up for themselves and others? While Thanksgiving might be a prime time to offer these moments of gratitude, we can also look to the Reflected Best Self Exercise, a tool developed by the Center for Positive Organizations. With this, you can reflect on stories of the times that you recognize yourself at your best and gather the perspectives of those that know you best so you can better understand how to be your best self more often.

In addition to Chopped, my family has another tradition of Hallmark Movie Bingo, where we fill our boards with all of the tropes the cheesiest movies have to offer (my favorite is the awkwardly thorough 20 second backstory). When we’re done with movies, we’ll gather around to try out the NYT crossword (with all three of us together, we can tackle a Thursday puzzle). Playing together, we feel more energized, more creative, and more connected. We can foster these feelings too in organizations by creating a culture of play. We can infuse play into work in all sorts of ways, like turning to imaginative games for brainstorming, welcoming jokes in the office, or even trying out some silly email sign-offs.

I started my Christmas shopping back in July, so you know I am very into gift-giving. But as we all know, engaging in the spirit of giving doesn’t just mean physical gifts. We can give the gift of our time, emotional support, skills, knowledge, you name it. Organizations are full of untapped resources, and in his research on generosity, Wayne Baker has found that people are more than willing to help — they just don’t always know how or what others need. Baker’s biggest recommendation is to learn how to ask for what you need — so maybe we should think back to the times we made Christmas lists for Santa.

With the new year, it’s time to reflect on the last year and start thinking about the next one. Life is a series of transitions, and each can bring up all sorts of emotions. As I think about the new year, I’m thinking about starting my last semester of college, and graduating will be one of the biggest transitions of my life. But taking the time to take stock of the past year, all the ways I’ve grown and the lessons I’ve learned, helps to shore up my internal resources to take on the next phase. We should take the time to reflect and appreciate whatever emotions come up in the transitions we go through, whether it be year to year, job to job, or project to project.

What resolutions are you setting for the new year? What habits do you want to set for yourself? For your team, for your organization? Habits are integral to forming sustainable change, and we can be purposeful about what habits we want to form our day to day experiences, which in turn can shape organizational culture. What positive practices could you turn into a habit? You might consider keeping a gratitude journal, starting meetings with check-ins, or ending meetings with Keeps and Adjusts.

I’m back at school and missing the holiday season, but I know we can keep the holiday spirit alive throughout the year if we embrace some of the positive practices set forth in positive organizational scholarship.

Alicia Haun is a content marketing intern at Riverbank Consulting Group. She is a senior at the University of Michigan, where she also works with the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. Alicia is passionate about the field of positive organizational psychology and looks forward to helping work become a place of flourishing.


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