Tips for an Uneventful Holiday Party

holiday party

holiday partyLove it or hate it, the company holiday party is just around the corner. Human Resource Managers are simultaneously trying to plan the party, handle end-of-year compensation/performance review talks, tie up loose ends from open enrollment and saying a little prayer your employees will conduct themselves professionally at this social event.

Of course, HR will send out a list of guidelines for proper behavior, but don’t make HR be the heavy on this one. You may assume your employees know how to behave themselves at a work social event, but in the Year of the Weinstein, it’s not worth the risk. Take the lead on preparing your team for an uneventful holiday party.

Why Uneventful?
I travel heavily for my job and when anyone asks me how my flight went, my favorite answer is “uneventful.” An uneventful flight is the best kind to have. Nothing went horribly wrong, and nothing was so spectacular that it raised my expectations for future flights. The best kind of flight is predictable and uneventful. That’s how I like my holiday parties as well. Predictable and uneventful. Predictable and uneventful is safe and doesn’t distract from the work that has to get done on Monday.

The Basics
Assuming you have any responsibility for planning this party, do a few favors for your employees:

  • Make the party optional and allow the family (at least spouses) to attend. Family-inclusive holiday parties serve several purposes. First, it shows your commitment to work-life balance. The last thing you want to do with a party is take more time away from home. Additionally, you learn so much about your employees when you meet the person they’ve chosen to spend the rest of their life with. Also, if you’re doing any kind of award banquet as part of the party, it’s nice to share those experiences with your loved ones. That brings us to the next tip…
  • Think through the idea of the awards banquet. First, the more you formalize the evening with speeches and activities, the less your employees will socialize (which is kind of the point of a party). If you’re giving out awards and gifts, be prepared for some hurt feelings unless you’re giving some recognition to everyone. Truly outstanding performance should absolutely be recognized, but if there’s any room for debate, you’ll completely change the vibe of the party to “why not me?”

I prefer a holiday party without any kind of awards banquet. I actually believe the best holiday party is one where no one talks about work. The party should be focused on celebrating another year together. A simple toast thanking everyone for their hard work and focusing on a few success stories for the year is ideal.

Pro Tips

  • If alcohol will be served, leave no room for error. You may assume that your employees are savvy enough to know you shouldn’t get hammered at a holiday party. Every year, plenty of managers make that same mistake and end up with an awkward conversation on Monday morning. Address the issue before the party. Set the standard for appropriate behavior. The best tip I ever received was to always stay two drinks behind the drunkest person in the room. This puts you in the safe zone of socially acceptable consumption, but not a train wreck. You want to know the story, not be the story.
  • As mentioned above, it is the year of the Weinstein (and the Spacey and the Lauer, etc, etc) and if we learned anything from those horrific news stories it’s that even people you admire and adore can and will make horrible choices. Don’t let it happen on your watch. Set a strict no tolerance policy and follow through with clear consequences for any violations.
  • If you’re serving alcohol, make sure there is plenty of food. Don’t let an empty stomach and 2 free drinks be the reason why questionable behaviors arise. Also, check out Uber for Business. You can pre-pay for an over-served employees’ safe ride home.

Finally, don’t forget to have fun. Make this party about celebrating another successful year and show your genuine appreciation for the hard work your team has given all year long.