Build a better holiday party this year
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Nothing should be assumed to be obvious about a holiday party. From a well-behaved-but-unwelcome child to an underdressed manager to a drunk employee, awkward situations can be minimized.
To avoid disgruntled staff, low attendance or increased liability, make sure to address these questions repeatedly before the event.
Holidays or revenues?
Most importantly but often forgotten: Make sure the purpose of the party is clear. Is the goal celebrating accomplishments? Making it through another year? Or is it just to get everyone together and have fun?
Create a theme, keep it simple and reiterate it. Doing so will ensure everyone knows what to expect when they show up.
The theme can also help attendees gauge appropriate behavior. Is this a good time to network with the boss's boss? A nice opportunity for supervisors to bond with their teams? Or should work conversations be off limits in lieu of relaxing and having fun? Be clear and help everyone get the most out of the event.
Santa or the employee of the year?
Similarly, underscore who the party is really for. If the organization intends to celebrate and give back to the employees, it is critical to ensure every type of employee has been considered when scheduling the time.
For example, have part-time employees, shift workers or other nontraditional schedules been accounted for when planning the event time? Are employees on leave welcome to attend? Make sure the logistics around attendance are clear and reiterated by supervisors.
Further, are family and significant others are welcome? And if so, has the event been scheduled in a way that makes sense for them to attend? Note that if it is for adults only, many employees may have to arrange for childcare — an extra expense during the holidays that may not be welcome.
Conversely, if children are welcome, does the schedule allow for employees to pick them up and bring them to the party? Are there activities for the children, and is that clear to all attendees?
Take the time to ensure that all staff knows who is and is not welcome at the event.
To drink or not to drink
If the organization is going to offer alcohol at the party, a little extra messaging around expectations can help. For example, if the theme is to have fun, then it may help to underscore having fun does not necessarily mean everyone gets drunk and dances on the table.
Talk to and ensure the leadership team and managers are ready to set the example for appropriate behavior at the party. And be sure to clearly communicate alternative travel options for those who may not be fit to drive home. (This article also has great tips for limiting liability associated with serving alcohol at company events.)
The bottom line: Whether the organization is celebrating keeping its doors open, the best year yet or something in between, to ensure the party accomplishes its goal, overcommunicate the purpose of the event. Make the theme clear and present it consistently up to and during the party.
Help everyone get the most out of the event and do so in a fun, safe way.
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