If you haven’t seen it yet, Patton Oswalt has a great new special on Netflix called Annihilation. He is wickedly funny and political, as one would expect. But the last third of the show delves into deeply personal territory when he talks about the sudden death of his wife, the mother of their young child. It is achingly sad and funny in the way only the absurdities of life can be. He repeats the wisdom of his late wife, who always used to say that the best we could hope for in a crazy world is to acknowledge the chaos and be kind to one another.

Holidays are stressful. They are stressful at work. They are stressful in the shops and restaurants. They are stressful with family and friends. So as leaders, what can we do for ourselves, our companies, and our fellow employees to help manage the chaos, and be kind?

  • Go above and beyond when you can to help customers. I had an amazing experience in a new grocery store that opened up near me. It’s a small local chain, and I was searching for peeled garlic in the produce section. The young man stacking bananas not only knew where the garlic was, he quickly offered to open the package and split it if I needed fewer than the 40 or so cloves it held. Knowing where things are in your department should be a given (though at the holidays it can seem like a rarity), but acknowledging the customers’ use of the product and needs was an unexpected kindness. Which I must admit carried through the rest of my shopping that day.
  • Be clear about holiday expectations at work. There are a lot of mixed emotions around the holidays at work – particularly company holiday parties, particularly this year. Do your best not to put anyone in your organization in a compromising position. Dark bars late at night with lots of booze may not be the best choice for your company celebration this year. Team lunch in the corporate cafeteria might not be your style either. But whatever you choose, find ways to set expectations – without being draconian. Let people know if there will or will not be alcohol. Let people know if spouses and families are invited or not. Make it easy for people to opt out – you never know what someone is going through, from addiction to an inability to find a babysitter. You don’t want a party to be a burden.
  • Check your self-awareness. You might be stressed too, and may not be your usual charming self this time of year. Check in on your own attitude, and look for ways that you can find peace and quiet, or boisterous cheer – whatever makes you feel happy this holiday season. Take time for what makes it special for you, and use the recharge you get to pass along some compassion. You may not be able to let people go home early, or offer a Christmas bonus. But you can offer genuine thanks for hard work, and human kindness on the way.

It’s Chaos, Be Kind.

Kindness costs little, and may be the best defense against the chaos of the world that we can ever hope for. Wishing you joy, peace, and kindness this holiday season!