Making Merry: Holiday Parties

Employers routinely sponsor holiday parties for their employees, the intent being to express appreciation and to boost morale.  Yet, many of those celebrations will turn into boring events that serve neither purpose.   So here are some tips for planning a fun holiday event for your staff:

  • (1) Avoid alcohol. Drink has divested many a co-worker of inhibitions that are best left intact. An employer must be concerned about the liberty taken or the ribald comment made at a holiday party – harassment charges and discrimination lawsuits have been known to begin with inappropriate comments made at a company’s social function.
  • (2) Ask your employees what kind of function they want. Upper management may make a well-intentional guess as to what their staff wants — and be absolutely wrong. For example, management may think employees would enjoy a black-tie dinner and dance at a country club, but such an event might be intimidating or just not interesting to some workers. Employees with families might prefer an informal holiday breakfast or a picnic where they could bring their children. Other workplaces might enjoy a dinner at the home of one of top management. You cannot know for sure what your staff would enjoy unless you ask them – so do ask. You won’t, of course, be able to please everyone, but you will be able to get a notion of the majority’s preference.
  • (3) Plan some kind of mixer games or namecards at tables to facilitate interaction between management and staff and between different departments. If you don’t have some planned interaction, you will probably find that the workplace clicks stay together.
  • (4) If you use your holiday social as a time to recognize superior performance, make the recognition fun and imaginative, not just a stuffy recitation of awards. No one enjoys long Academy-award-like presentations so punch up employee recognition with imaginative touches. And, it is not the time to give out bonuses or holiday gifts if the value of such awards vary considerably – comparison will only breed envy at an event where you are trying to foster comraderie.
  • (5) Involve upper management in the actual work of planning and putting on the event. So often the work of putting together a holiday party is placed on staff, on top of their regular duties. Is it any wonder some employees view company parties as a burden? If a holiday event is actually intended to honor staff, don’t make them plan it themselves –that’s like asking someone to plan their own surprise birthday party! Management needs to do some of the “grunt work,†including decorating, themselves!
  • (6) When choosing a location, date, and time, be considerate of your staff’s schedules. Many employees feel obligated to attend work-sponsored social functions whether they want to or not. Therefore, try to make it convenient for them. If the event is scheduled for a work night, be sure they have time to go home and change clothes with leisure. Consider letting them leave work an hour early. Don’t schedule your company party for a night when other major holiday events are happening, for example the city Christmas parade or the community Christmas pageant.

With a little forethought, your holiday social can be a joyous time of good spirits that can have wonderful repercussions on morale for the year to come.

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