Companies that recently laid off employees may want to rethink holiday parties

Gatherings should be smaller and targeted, but still happen, one expert recommended.
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How the Grinch Stole Christmas/Universal via Giphy

· 3 min read

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but as the economic situation has grown increasingly grim, companies of all sizes have had to make difficult choices, with some even reducing their workforce.

Now, HR leaders have to make another difficult choice: to ignore the holidays, or move forward with a celebration. Though recent events may have employees feeling like the residents of Whoville on a post-Grinch Christmas Day, one professor believes celebrations should—to some degree—continue on.

Lights off. Layoffs during the holiday season aren’t uncommon, as businesses are preparing for a new fiscal year and making many difficult decisions. These decisions, especially layoffs, can have a ripple effect within a company. Some experts say that they can hurt morale and productivity, and may even have workers searching for a way out.

They can also be a major test of company culture. “These mass layoffs create a domino effect within companies,” Amy Mosher, chief people officer at HR resources services company Isolved, told ComputerWorld. “Stress, burnout, and lack of trust will strip down the company culture that many leaders have worked so hard to rebuild post-pandemic…With a lack of culture, you’ll begin to see your top talent walk away and look for new opportunities.”

Be merry…but not too much. While some companies are planning elaborate festivities for the first time since the pandemic began, others aren’t breaking out the egg nog. Amazon, for example, which recently announced plans to lay off 11,000 workers, has asked managers to keep parties subdued and largely virtual, according to an internal email to managers obtained by Insider.

“For this holiday, we cannot have elaborate get-togethers. We are in a different situation than in prior years, and while we always focused [on] a good blend between celebrating the accomplishments of the past year and frugality, this year we need to do this even more so,” it read.

Anna Tavis, clinical professor of human capital management at New York University, said HR leaders are in a tough spot. Canceling all holiday celebrations could have adverse consequences and compound the negative feelings the remaining employees likely have. Instead, she recommended HR work with managers to plan smaller, team-centered holiday gatherings.

“I would localize those activities at the level of the team and have the managers of the teams where they were laying [people] off still get together,” she said. “The manager’s task will be to retain the people who stay and have them be motivated [and] productive.”

Every situation will be different, she said, based on how many employees were impacted by the layoffs and on what teams, but HR will play a vital role in deciding the best course of action.

If we’ve learned anything from Cindy Lou Who, it’s that even without fanfare, there’s much to celebrate.—KP

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @Kris10Parisi on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Kristen for her number on Signal.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.