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Managing Union Members During Holidays: 4 Strategies for Fighting Holiday Stress

By Deborah Blumberg | Nov 14, 2018

Managing union members during holidays can be a challenge. The holiday season is filled with fun activities and family gatherings, but the same things that make the season so cheerful can also leave union members stressed out, especially if the end of the year is a busy time for their employers. More than a third of workers polled in a recent survey said they felt more work-related pressure during the holidays.

While members are finalizing vacation plans, gift shopping and party planning, it's easy for them to become distracted from work and their union — and, as a result, less engaged. A union board that has devoted time throughout the year to building community and increasing involvement can see it all whittled away over the course of one holiday season. For trustees, the few months at the end of the year can make or break member engagement, and it can pay to implement new strategies for keeping members happy and productive.

Work with members instead of against them to keep them engaged during the holidays with these four tips.

1. Be Flexible With Committee Members

Even the most successful committee or task force might not be able to keep up with its duties in between all of the other responsibilities that come up near the end of the year. During the holiday season, adjust the responsibilities of any committees or other action groups to keep members' lives from becoming too hectic, and be understanding if members cannot devote as much time to groups within the union. For example, if a union committee typically puts out a four-page member newsletter every month, consider asking the committee to create a two-page version during November and December — or skip the monthly newsletter altogether and put out one festive newsletter for the entire holiday season.

2. Reconsider How Meetings Are Run

Union member meetings should always strive to be motivational and results-oriented, but beyond that, there's room for creativity. Make a special effort to spice up meetings around the holidays, and aim for them to be a reprieve from holiday duties instead of just another obligation. These meetings will likely have a lower turnout than ones scheduled for earlier in the year, but an inventive roster of events will attract more members.

Invite a guest speaker or lead a seminar that teaches members something new, limiting the meetings to just the most essential and engaging parts, as members might be less patient when their holiday duties are piling up. If possible, announce that members will receive a small holiday gift at the end of the meeting to show that the union board cares — and give them a physical reminder of how they can benefit from attending meetings.

3. Advocate for Vacations

It's common for union members — like so many workers in America — not to use all of their vacation days. Trustees managing union members during holidays can encourage members to take their earned time off to spend with family. Members will appreciate the recognition that they deserve time to rest and reenergize so that they can succeed in the new year.

If necessary, the union should also work with employers to ensure that vacation and time-off requests are being managed fairly, with no worries about repercussions.

4. Organize Charitable Activities

According to one study, almost 75 percent of American workers say that it's important that their workplaces take part in holiday philanthropic initiatives like food drives. Familiar workplace holiday traditions like cookie swaps and gift exchanges were less valued by study participants. Instead of a member holiday party, consider amplifying morale by organizing a trip to a local food bank or visiting residents at a local retirement community.

A strong union can recognize the needs of its members, and that includes taking into account members' holiday-specific struggles and stresses. During such a hectic time, a little creativity can go a long way.

With 15 years' experience writing for publications including The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, The Christian Science Monitor and Newsday—Deborah Blumberg specializes in business and finance and health and wellness. She writes about topics including corporate communications, financial markets, real estate, renewable energy, cancer, health education, nutrition, supplements, the microbiome and functional medicine. She was a Knight Center fellow and a Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism fellow. Her time working in marketing and communications at JPMorgan Chase taught her how to best tell a company's story. She's adept at turning complex ideas into compelling copy. She's also an officer of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and a Women in the Visual and Literary Arts board member, and she is fluent in Spanish.