Keeping Your Elves Happy: Keep Staff Motivated During the Holiday Season

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If Santa publicly berated or ignored the elves in his workshop or kept his reindeer on reins that were too tight, one could only imagine how dismal his helpers and the holiday season might be. Toys would malfunction and/or arrive late and kids (the end “customers”) would chatter for years to come about what a jerk Santa is. Plus, Old Saint Nick would not be able to recruit quality helpers in 2017. (His disgruntled workers might even go online and complain about what a bad boss he was.)

So, this holiday season, put yourself in your elves’ shoes. You need your team to be committed and motivated; to serve your customers in a way that makes them want to come back throughout the new year. Happy staff = happy customers = better business for you.

“But I’m paying my employees well!” you might think. “That alone should make them happy.”


Recent studies indicate that compensation is actually #8 on the list of 10 factors that correlate with job happiness. Being appreciated for one’s work and having good relationships with colleagues are actually #1 and #2, respectively.

So, this holiday season be sure to:

• Praise individuals and teams for jobs well done. When you get kudos from a customer, ask him who the server/bartender/manager was and pass the good word along. Do it publicly (at team meetings) whenever possible.

• Be sensitive to your staff’s obligations outside of work. In the nightclub and bar industry, your workers often have to back-burner their families and shopping needs while they cover holiday shifts. Using automated scheduling systems takes the stress out of shift management and encourages workers to talk to each other when coverage is needed.

• Engage your staff in problem-solving. Although everyone likes to have his voice heard, Millennial employees are most engaged when they believe their supervisor respects their opinions. That doesn’t mean you have to adopt every suggestion or recipe your team comes up with, but you will create an environment where people feel as if they are invested in your business success.

• Remain cheery. Bad moods, like good moods, are contagious. If you show up stressed or angry (or don’t show up at all), your team members will mirror your behavior. (Imagine if Santa came in to the workshop scowling and yelling and smashing candy canes every day. Not an attractive thought.) Role model the behaviors you’d like to see within your team.

• Plan something fun for when the holiday frenzy dies down. Whether you give stellar staff members a paid day off or plan a fun team outing (or both), it will give people something to look forward to after the holiday season.

Are you an “elf” reading this article? What can you do as an employee to keep the holiday spirit alive? Team up with your co-workers to create a positive environment. Come up with solutions to problems and pro-actively present them to your management, but be sure your ideas have a business benefit to them. (i.e., “We could turn over three more tables every night if we had one more server on the floor.”) If you have the time and need the money, volunteer to work extra hours or take on jobs no one else wants. Complaining without a creative solution will just result in your manager tuning out. Standing out and stepping up will benefit you in the long run.

Above all, throughout the holiday season remember that your primary job is to keep your customers delighted. If you can deliver the gift of great beverages, food, and responsiveness to patrons’ needs during busy and celebratory times, you will be remembered and praised well into the New Year!

We may not believe in Santa, but everyone should believe in great service and a loyal employee team – this holiday season and all year round.

Holiday cheer…and to all a good night (or many)!

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