Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sweet, Fancy Moses: eight rules for the office party

How to Throw a Holiday Party Employees Will Be Excited to Attend

By Alison Green | Posted on December 6, 2011

Every year around this time, my mail fills up with complaints from people about ways their companies are mishandling the holiday party – from making them pay to attend, to throwing a lavish event right after laying people off. The whole point of throwing a holiday party is to increase employee morale and engagement, so the last thing you want to do is hold an event that does the opposite!

Here are eight rules for throwing a company party that employees will want to attend.

1. Don’t require attendance, even unofficially. Some staffers truly don’t enjoy these sorts of functions, and that’s okay. Requiring their presence under the guise of giving them a treat will hurt morale, not build it. If the party is meant as a gift, you can’t turn it into an obligation, so don’t penalize people for not going, even just in your head.

2. Ensure that everyone who wants to go can go. Don’t leave your receptionist stuck covering the phone while everyone else goes to the party. And similarly, don’t make some employees “work” at the party (as caterers, coat checkers, or so forth).

3. Under no circumstances should you charge employees to attend. If you need to charge your party guests in order to cover your expenses, that’s a sign that you need to have a less lavish party.

4. Choose a convenient location, or arrange transportation for people who want it. Especially if you live in a city with good public transportation, some of your employees may not have cars. Make sure they can get to and from the venue easily.

5. Do not hold the party on a boat. You may expect people to stay for the full event, but some people will want to attend only part of it, and a boat means they’re stuck out for the whole evening. (Or will need to swim…)

6. Door prizes. Have them, and make them good. No $5 coupons or company mugs.

7. If the company is going through cutbacks, don’t throw an extravagant party. There’s no better way to demoralize employees than to lower this year’s bonuses and then blow thousands on a swanky affair.

8. Consider letting your staff vote on whether they want a holiday party or a day off … and don’t be upset if lots of people vote for the day off.

I didn't write this, of course, and I no longer work in an office (except for my own wonderful sanctuary, full of the things I love most and with a view of three-tiered cedar boughs full of birds and squirrels), but this struck me as one of the best things I've ever seen. It just makes such sense, but it's the kind of sense no one seems to exhibit any more in a world of frantic one-upmanship. People just don't even THINK about the rotten time a partygoer will have when s/he has to tend bar, handle coats or play receptionist. Holding the event on a boat is assumed to be an automatic and impressive "oooh-ahhh", when some may be seasick, dislike boats (me), or just want/need to leave early (babysitting emergency?) and feel trapped (which they are). These are plainordinary but seldom-thought-of guidelines for treating employees like human beings. No big blowouts after massive layoffs, please!