Photograph of Ujima Donalson

A Message from Ujima Donalson
Assistant Vice President, Total Talent Management

Welcome to the holiday season! I truly believe it’s the most wonderful time of the year. However, as leaders it’s imperative that we’re aware of emotional minefields, potential triggers and tensions that may be brought on by the season so that we can be more responsive to our team and alert to any problems or hardships.

In this festive season, we may sometimes find ourselves or others on edge. Some of us welcome the holidays with open arms and total glee, but for many, this can be a demanding time of year, fraught with travel plans, hosting in-laws, juggling childcare, end-of-year work projects and other stressors, and the holidays can also trigger deep emotions for those who have lost loved ones or have painful memories.

In addition to the usual holiday rush, many of our employees recently completed the climate survey. No doubt you took the survey as well and are aware that questions were asked that might have prompted individuals to share sensitive information. As a result, those individuals may be feeling exposed or vulnerable, with no real sense of resolution. As you know, the survey results will not become public until the spring, so we will not have any actionable information for many months.

Many of us became leaders because we like taking on challenges and solving problems, sometimes to a fault. We may tend to leap into “fix it” mode too quickly. In some cases, however, what we can do to best support our employees is to actively listen and express empathy.

This holiday season, let’s practice being mindful. Let us notice what’s going on around us and recognize when individuals seem like they’re overburdened or overwhelmed. As appropriate, we can check in, kindly and in private. We can listen — truly listen — and nod our heads, show understanding and demonstrate compassion.

If we feel it’s appropriate, we can give gentle reminders of the myriad of resources that employees have here at the UW:

You may also want to help your team shrug off the holiday blues and stress with impromptu fun that has nothing to do with the holidays. Pick a cheerful song that everyone can do some spontaneous desk-dancing to. Take 15 minutes in a meeting room for people to make simple origami objects or goofy paper bag puppets. Go on a team walk, or simply share a quick snack together.

Rather than putting a damper on things, ensuring that others are supported and feel heard can add to our own sense of joy and fulfillment. In that spirit, I truly wish you a blessed and joyful holiday season.

Autumn 2019 | Return to Issue Home