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Did You See Your Shadow?

Happy belated Groundhog Day.

You can make fun of me if you want but I am a big fan of Groundhog Day. I grew up in Woodstock, IL, where they filmed the movie Groundhog Day. Punxatawney, PA isn’t a pretty place so they filmed in Woodstock. A factoid–the bed and breakfast where Bill Murray stayed was the house of my sister’s best friend, Kitty Rachford. I have been in that house, and I have looked out the window that Bill Murray looked out of in the movie every morning. Growing up that house was absolutely one of the coolest in town and is a symbol of the Victorian charm that bejewels many of the homes in town. I write a lot about my childhood there, and there are good reasons for this. It is Hometown USA. I bowled in the bowling alley, ate in the restaurants, played in the park on the square, stepped in the pothole, took the shortcut through the tunnel, and stood in most of the places where Bill Murray stood.

Enough about me; my point today is that Groundhog Day is about an ill-tempered animal, the weather, and their implications for human resources professionals.

My high school English teacher and lifetime mentor Chris Strong posted on his Facebook page this week, “I just went outside, and I’m predicting that six more weeks of winter will drive me completely out of my mind.”

By and large, winter is not good for the human condition. It is more apparent as you get older. The lack of sun, the need to be bundled up–no wonder the groundhog upon seeing his shadow crawls back into the hole to sleep for another six weeks. Even if his prediction comes from the fact that he doesn’t see his shadow (and therefore it’ll be an early spring), that means that it’ll be a cloudy and damp February.

In the human resources context, the winter is HR’s silly season. Our workforces aren’t starting off right. We all wake up in the dark, and come to work after being in a gridlock caused by ice and snow, and aren’t necessarily in the greatest mood by the time we arrive. As HR Professionals, we have to mediate more disputes and deal with more workplace climate issues in cold dreary weather than in the more pleasant months. According to a UK study, a long winter can actually affect workplace productivity for as long as five months following its end. If you read what those who publish on the internet recommend, your best bet for staving off mass workplace blues is to advocate such things as:

•Shut up. Don’t tell people about your mood. Misery often loves company and we all know the impact of group think. If you don’t want to be mediating employee disputes, don’t feed the climate with your own bad mood.
•Fake it. Work extra hard at being pleasant and cheerful. Read positive thinking books.
•Watch comedy. (A suggestion, most of my friends from Woodstock went to downtown Chicago this past weekend to see Jim Gaffigan. I know this because of the number of posts on Facebook. Look for his youtube videos on hot pockets and bacon, and you’ll laugh so hard you’ll cry. I sure did).
•Don’t hole up. Do something for the Superbowl and Valentines’ Day and Family Day and. . .
•Plan events for the spring. Time does go by quickly when you’re busy.

Maybe I take it back. I am not a big fan of Groundhog Day. Perhaps the hope of an early spring isn’t as tantalizing as it should be, and it seems to take a lot of work to come out of your hole, only to discover that the winter is still there and it is time to go back for a nap. It is a negative distraction. Perhaps if we all just plow through, the nice weather will be here in no time.

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