Is “Happy Holidays” an oxymoron?

Business Leader Post, December 19, 2013

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Despite the tongue in cheek title of today’s column, I want to wish all of my readers a Happy Holiday. Thank you for taking the time to read my column and for the many positive comments you have sent me throughout the year.

The holiday season, stretching through Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Years, can be the most stressful and difficult time of year for families. Each year we go into the holiday season with expectations for joy, good feelings towards one another and the warmth that only fellowship and families can provide. But the truth is that the holiday season can be a reminder of the disappointments from years past when the same issues that drove us mad during the year not only didn’t disappear during the holiday season, but somehow escalated and became worse.

It can be even harder on family businesses. The increased amount of time that family members who work together spend with one another can have negative effects. How many of us have to hang out with our bosses on Christmas Day; or have drinks with the “senior managers” of the business who never stop “talking shop” to the exclusion and boredom of everybody else, including their wives and kids? How many of us have to spend more time with the family business parents at the risk of insulting our in-laws because we understand the side on which our “bread is buttered”?

There is a simple but powerful way to ward off unmet expectations during the holidays and the disappointment in those family members who somehow don’t get it. It is also the key to any and all harmonious relationships during any time of year. A spouse who was wrestling with all the complications inherent in a family business once asked me, “When do we integrate ‘forgiveness’ into the equation?” My answer to her: “Now.”

My advice to all of you is to implement forgiveness during the holiday season. Everybody is doing the best they can to get through it. Some people manage better than others. All we can do is understand that, forgive them for their silly, even hurtful behaviors and move on. If that works for you this holiday season, hang on to it as best you can for the rest of the year.