Holiday Greetings for Tough Times

As the owner of a business that prepares tax returns for both individuals and small companies, Ana sends out a lot of greetings for various holidays. This year is different, though. “Some of my clients have relatives who are trying to survive in a war zone right now,” Ana explained. “Another client is going through a messy divorce. Then there’s a company I’ve done business with for years that will be closing down after the holidays—all of its employees are losing their jobs. It just seems so insensitive to send cheery holiday messages to people who are suffering.”

Last year, we published a series of articles about holiday greetings in the workplace. In Part One, we focused on the importance of knowing your audience. In Part Two, we examined why it helps to learn about the different holidays, as well as why you should be aware of your company’s policies. Then in Part Three, we went over how all of this might work in a real-world scenario. But what can you do if you are in a situation like Ana’s, where you aren’t sure about sending holiday greetings to people who are going through tough times?

Should you skip the holiday messages?

One option is to take certain people off your holiday greetings list, at least for this year. However, when people are going through hard times, it usually makes them feel worse when their family, friends, colleagues, and business associates avoid them. They may feel abandoned or forgotten. So unless someone has specifically asked to be taken off your holiday greetings list, you should still send them some type of message that lets them know you are thinking of them.

“My father died when I was a teenager, and those first holidays without him were really hard,” recalled Max, one of Ana’s employees. “Still, it was nice when people found ways to show that they cared.”

What kinds of holiday greetings are appropriate?

If you have a colleague or business associate who is having a hard time during the holidays, your message should reflect your relationship with that person. For a colleague who can also be considered a friend, you would probably want to reach out on a more personal level. But if your relationship with someone is “strictly business”, it might not be appropriate to send them a highly emotional, personalized holiday greeting.

You will also need to consider your company’s policies about holiday messages in general. Most workplaces in English-speaking countries discourage any kind of religious messaging; they tend to emphasize the more secular, universal aspects of various holidays. However, this might not be the case if you work for a faith-based organization.

In most instances, a message of support and comfort would be considered appropriate. It is usually okay to acknowledge the person’s loss or difficult circumstances. You could also invite the person to reach out to you if there is anything you can do to help them. This might also be a good time for you to remind this person how much you appreciate them, or how thankful you are for something that they have done for you in the past.

Let’s look at some examples…

Some of these holiday messages are suitable for particular circumstances, such as the death of a loved one. Other messages can be used for many different situations. The key is to decide what works best for you and for the person to whom you are sending your message.

  • I wish you peace after this difficult year.
  • May your memories of _______ be a comfort to you this holiday season.
  • I just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you.
  • I am sending you healing thoughts this holiday season.
  • I just want to let you know that I am thankful for the time we spent together working on the X Project. If there is anything I can do for you during these hard times, please let me know.
  • I know it’s hard for you to celebrate when so many people in your homeland are hurting.
  • I hope you hear good news about _______ soon.
  • Please know that I am holding the people of ______ in my heart. May the New Year bring them peace.
  • Wishing you better times in the New Year.

After talking with Max about his experiences after the death of his father, Ana decided to go ahead and send holiday greetings to all of her clients. “I always send out pretty cards with scenes of nature,” said Ana. “So those were appropriate. I also wrote a little message for each person at the bottom. I know there isn’t much I can really do to change anybody’s circumstances. The holidays are going to be hard for them no matter what I do. But hopefully they’ll know they don’t have to go through it alone.”

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