Holiday Parties: Love ’em or Leave ’em?

With Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and an assortment of other celebrations coming down the pipeline, it seems like everyone has a holiday party or two to attend. I’ve been to my fair share of holiday parties over the years. Some have been fun, some have been charitable, some have been a disaster. So, why do we insist on having these parties year after year?

What is the purpose of a holiday party? It seems to me that employers think, here’s a good way to increase moral during what seems to be a stressful time of year. In almost every party I got invited to, I was asked to bring a side dish. If not, there is almost always a planning committee. My point is, this is going to add more stress to someone’s plate, which seems to lower moral. 

Another reason to have a holiday party is to celebrate the success of a company at the end of a year. Great! But what usually happens is there is a day or time, outside of normal hours when these parties are planned. As a reward for all of your hard work, you are required to give more time, but it’s okay because it’s… fun? 

One year the group I was working with sponsored an adopt-a-child. This was a fantastic idea, our boss ordered in lunch and we all drove together to Wal-Mart and spent a couple hundred dollars buying toys for children who might not have received them otherwise. An idea that in and of itself had very good intentions. There was a “suggested donation” which led to feelings of guilt if we didn’t give enough. We passed a couple of homeless people along the way and I became deeply distraught that we would spend so much money making sure children had toys but not feeding the homeless people in our community. 
I know what you’re thinking “Wow, Blair sounds like a scrooge.” I promise I’m not. I love this time of year. I love the idea of helping those less fortunate than ourselves. The motives just seem a little off to me. I am a firm believer in not complaining unless you have a solution available though. 

So, my suggestion would be, if you truly want to reward your employees. Give them an extra paid day off. If your company can’t afford it during this time of year, add an extra day of personal time off to the next year and give that as a gift to them to show your appreciation for them. Follow that up with a contribution to charity in the amount the company would have spent on a holiday party and a gift card to a local restaurant so they can all enjoy some time with their families. No extra time required. No stressful planning of a holiday party. No “suggested donation” of money. No purchase of ugly sweaters. Just encouraging employees to take some time to recharge outside of work hours.

Some people really love holiday parties. If you are one of those, I apologize, but think about the impact just one year of doing things differently could have on your community. 

Until next time,

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