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How to navigate the holiday season

Arielle Gordis 10 min read
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Workplace trends

Factory workers in Bangladesh are demanding better pay

Millions of garment workers in Bangladesh, who make clothes for Western companies, earn as little as $3 a day (~$75 a month). Tens of thousands of them have walked out and are refusing to work for less than a minimum of roughly $205 per month. Demonstrations are spiraling, with factories set ablaze and machines smashed, forcing 300 factories to halt operations. While there seems to be widespread support for the workers, including from fashion giants like H&M, Gap, and Zara-parent Inditex, which source from the country, no one seems to agree on who should foot the bill. Bangladesh factory owners say that to significantly hike up worker wages, Western brands need to pay more for the clothing they order. However, they say that those same Western companies who are publicly claiming to support higher pay are balking when costs rise and are threatening to shift their orders to other countries.

Wall Street bonuses are set to drop by up to 25%

Between higher interest rates, international wars, and economic uncertainty, corporate executives are hesitant to close deals, leading to a 10-year low in global deal making. The result? Wall Street is taking a big hit. According to a recent Johnson Associates survey, bonuses for some investment bankers are likely to fall up to 25% from a year ago, including both cash and stock-based compensation, marking the second straight year of sagging compensation. With another disappointing year on top of already high inflation, even incomes in the typically lucrative finance sector are seriously down. Additionally, volatile stock markets have left private companies worried that they won’t fetch higher prices if they try to list in the public markets, given that more than 80% of companies that completed a traditional IPO since 2020 are currently trading below their IPO price.

The AI corner

What’s happening with Sam Altman?

On Friday, OpenAI unexpectedly ousted co-founder Sam Altman as CEO, saying he wasn’t being “consistently candid in his communications,” following a series of clashes with members of the board over the company’s direction. After sending shockwaves across the tech industry and a number of his colleagues quitting in protest of his removal, investors made efforts to bring Altman back. According to insiders, however, the board has stood firmly against rehiring him. In another turn of events, Microsoft announced yesterday that it was hiring Altman and Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president and a company co-founder who quit OpenAI in solidarity, to lead an advanced research lab at Microsoft. More than 500 of OpenAI’s 700 employees have signed a letter threatening to join Altman’s new project at Microsoft unless the start-up’s board resigned.

BCG staff produced 40% higher quality work with GPT-4

Harvard Business Review and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recently conducted a study to discover the effects of ChatGPT on worker speed and productivity. The results? BCG employees who were randomly assigned to use GPT-4 when carrying out a set of consulting tasks were far more productive than their colleagues that did not have access to the tool. The AI-assisted consultants completed 12% more tasks 25% faster, and their work was assessed to be 40% higher quality than their unassisted peers. The tools seemed to benefit employees with a range of skills, but in a pattern now common in generative AI studies, the largest performance gains were among lower skilled workers. Experts explain that this makes sense given that large language models are regurgitators and summarizers of existing human knowledge, so the closer one’s own knowledge already is to that limit, the smaller the benefit will be.

How to navigate the holiday season


While the holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, gratitude, and connectedness, for many, this period can actually be quite challenging and lonely. Between the financial stress that comes from booking vacations and buying holiday gifts, the emotional burdens that are triggered for those who have lost a loved one or are navigating complicated family dynamics, or the burnout that arises amid increased pressure to achieve big goals by the end of the year, the holidays can really put a strain on your employees’ mental health. In fact, in a recent survey by Joy Organics, 88% of respondents found the holidays to be the most stressful time of the year.

When not handled the right way, holiday-induced stress can spill over into the workplace and lead to low morale on your team as well as a reduction in productivity and engagement.

So, how should you navigate this holiday season with your team members?

Offer your support

In the coming days, schedule brief meetings with each of your employees or allot a few minutes at the start of your next one-on-one meetings to simply check in. In this private setting, try to casually ask your team members about their plans for the holidays in order to gauge their feelings as you ease into the conversation. Regardless of how they respond, openly acknowledge that the holidays can be a challenging time and emphasize that you want to be a resource for the team in any way you can – whether that’s by helping them prioritize projects and manage pending deadlines that may be adding additional stress, offering a bit more flexibility to help them navigate familial obligations, or simply being someone to lean on. In short, let them know that you are here for them.

Encourage taking time off

Make sure your employees feel comfortable planning a vacation in the near future. A great way to do this is simply by allotting some time in your next team meeting to openly address the topic – express how much you recognize their hard work and want them to take time off for themselves when they need it. By discussing it in a team forum, you make it clear to everyone that taking a vacation is not taboo and that they have your support to do so. Also, be sure to note that taking time off doesn’t have to mean flying to some exotic destination, and that a relaxing staycation is also a great way to use their vacation days.

Prioritize projects

As 2024 approaches, there are likely lots of projects that currently need to get done by the end of this year. While some may truly be urgent, there are probably a few that can bleed into the beginning of next year without causing any issues. Especially knowing that some of your team members may be planning time off in the coming weeks, do your best to evaluate due dates in order to avoid causing unnecessary pressure and time crunches.

On that note, invite your employees to schedule brief syncs with you to walk through all of their projects and prioritize their individual workloads – pushing off some flexible deadlines to early next year. This way, with fewer items on their plates, your team members can feel more in-control, avoid unnecessary added pressure, and ensure that the most important work gets done on time.

Set a positive example

As a manager, you set the tone for what is considered acceptable work behavior on your team, which is why if you’re actively working during the holidays or while on vacation, your employees will feel pressure to do the same. So, unless something is absolutely urgent, when you’re on vacation or celebrating with loved ones, it’s so important to allow yourself to fully unplug from work and encourage your employees to do so as well. Make it clear that you don’t expect to hear from them during non-work hours or while they’re away.

Additionally, if you know that one of your team members is planning a vacation, help them identify relevant team members who can serve as a point of contact for each of their projects to make sure no one needs to disturb them while they’re gone.

Celebrate intentionally

The holidays are a really great opportunity to come together, but try to be intentional about how you foster that sense of connectedness. Avoid asking your employees to send holiday photos or snippets from their vacations in group chats, because it risks alienating the team members who struggle during this period or don’t have anything exciting to share. Instead, find ways to bring your team members together. This can be by encouraging your team to use the group chat as a space to shoutout their teammates who helped them reach their goals this year, highlight exciting milestones that you achieved together, or share their favorite work-related memories from 2023. You can also try to organize an optional gift-giving circle with a small budget to ensure everyone on your team who’s interested can receive a little something special for the holidays.

Recognize achievements

Take the upcoming new year as an opportunity to make your employees feel seen and valued. As a leader, your opinion and words truly mean a lot to your team members, so if you can, try to block off a few hours on your calendar to write authentic and personal messages to each of your direct reports. Highlight their individual achievements and contributions and emphasize why they’re such a valued team member. Even just a sentence or two can make a big difference and set a positive tone amongst your team members for the new year.

Additionally, before everyone disperses for the holidays, try to organize a mini celebration to look back on the team’s biggest wins of 2023 and simply enjoy some stress-free time together. If your team is remote, schedule a group call and ask everyone to raise a glass from wherever they are!

Water cooler chatter

In an effort to shed its image as a party pooper, Canada’s capital is hiring a nightlife czar. While Canadians know Ottawa as the home of government and the city that fun forgot, municipal leaders are trying to turn that image around. Ottawa is looking to hire someone to preside over the city’s nightlife and energize the city’s economic base from the hours of 6pm to 6am.

“If you are saying Ottawa is boring, then you are boring."
Scott May, Owner of Ottawa’s Bar Robo and Q Bar

It looks like AI can predict the weather better than traditional models. Experts say that the AI model GraphCast, developed by Google’s DeepMind, can predict the weather quicker, for cheaper, and with more accuracy than the best models we use now. In fact, the model was able to predict where Hurricane Lee would make landfall three days before weather forecasters could.

“It shows the extent to which machine learning and AI can really deal in and really process extremely complex physical phenomena.”
Rémi Lam, Staff Research Scientist at DeepMind

Question of the week

Last week’s answer: Copenhagen

This week’s question: How much are Americans expected to spend on Christmas shopping this year?

Just for laughs

How to navigate the holiday season
Arielle is a writer and storyteller currently serving as a content marketing manager at When she’s not busy writing, you can find her walking outside for hours on end or planning her next travel adventure.

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