Keeping peace in the practice during the holidays

November 15, 2017
Respect and planning will help you get through the holidays.

With the holiday season approaching, doctors of optometry may want to consider ways to keep peace on Earth—and in their practices.

Managing this festive time of year—from Thanksgiving to the New Year—can be a challenge for any small business with party planning and vacation scheduling.

"Certainly, staff members look forward to our annual Christmas party each year," says Doug Totten, O.D., who practices in Michigan and is chair of the AOA's Ethics and Values Committee.

Below, doctors of optometry offer tips so practices can successfully stuff their holidays with celebration and not ruffle turkey feathers.

Wishbone upon respect

Dr. Totten refers to the AOA Standards of Professional Conduct:

Optometrists should conduct themselves with good character in all of their actions to build trust and respect with patients, the public and colleagues. Good character includes, but is not limited to, honesty, integrity, fairness, kindness and compassion.

"A key word in this passage is the word 'respect,'" Dr. Totten says.

That may call for balancing the needs of staff. It may be, for instance, a good time for staff to jingle up on the practice's employee handbook, which should address how to respectfully treat patients and each other. In a pluralistic society, where people's beliefs differ, respect should be given to others' beliefs, Dr. Totten says. Further, though the season is a time of joy, reverence and fun for many, others may experience holiday blues.

"The other side of the equation is that employers don't need to downplay the season just to be politically correct," he adds. "A wise amount of sensitivity goes a long way."

Kenneth Lawenda, O.D., also a member of the Ethics and Values Committee, who practices in Montpelier, Vermont, notes the many holiday traditions celebrated in this country—Mexican, Jewish, Canadian, Irish and Japanese as well.

"In many offices across the nation, doctors of optometry are making decisions on how we will recognize and be respectful of the many religious holidays during this time of year," Dr. Lawenda says.

Be open to celebrating other traditions

Celebrations can come in all shapes and sizes. Is the office party in the office or off-site? Are staff exchanging gifts, or are they giving to a local charity? How will the office be staffed during celebrations? Planning ahead helps to answer many of these questions.

Consider asking staff how they'd like to celebrate.

"Employees may want a party after the holidays when schedules tend not to be so busy and they don't have as many other obligations," Dr. Totten says. "Make the holiday party voluntary, and consider the timing. If some staff members don't celebrate holidays, it may be wise to have the party outside of normal working hours."

The holidays also may provide an opportunity to embrace other cultures, Dr. Lawenda says. Citing an article he read recently, Dr. Lawenda notes the recommendations of the author: Among the ideas were encouraging employees to share their holiday traditions with other staff members.

Give goodwill to all

Consider making gift exchanging optional "to respect those who wouldn't want to be a part of it, or for those who don't have the money or time to plan or shop," Dr. Totten says.

"My staff prefers not to exchange gifts," he adds. "Each staff member, though, gets to choose someone in the community to receive a complimentary eye exam and basic pair of glasses. The office and staff members share in covering the cost. It's an exciting time as these patients come in around Christmas and show their gratitude for the gift.

"My office does give year-end monetary gifts to staff members at our annual Christmas party," he adds. "The amount of the bonus depends on the years of service and work performance over the past year. We have our accountant calculate to add the payroll taxes so that the net of the check is the actual bonus amount."

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