Ahhh Christmas! For most people, the season of Santa is an exciting time. The year is coming to an end, holidays are near, and summer is here (or almost). Then there's the work Xmas party.
They are a thing of myth and legend. Stories abound of how previously mild-mannered employees and managers availed themselves amply of the company largesse and took the opportunity to let their hair down just a little too far.
These days, most companies recognise that letting the staff cut loose at the Xmas party poses potential risks to health and safety, their reputation, or may even have legal repercussions. So for many, the work Xmas do is a little more buttoned-down and in some cases, doesn't really happen at all.
But the fun police don't need to kill all the joy.
Not throwing a Christmas party (or having a simple, dull one) may please the accountant, but you’ll miss a valuable opportunity for you and your people to hang out in a relaxed setting. Parties are a chance to celebrate success and show employees how much you appreciate their efforts over the year, which in turn helps keep everyone motivated and improves staff retention.
So here are a few important things to keep in mind when you're planning and attending this year's Xmas party.
Key words: Moderation and respect
Let’s be honest, Christmas parties are not the issue. Alcohol is the issue and the way some people react when they drink too much.
So, here's a totally crazy idea – why not do something without alcohol? There are plenty of activities that don't revolve around drinking. Try go-cart racing, clay pigeon shooting, white water rafting, master chef style cook-offs, or a child-friendly BBQ at a local park with games, music, face painting etc.
You could redirect the party budget to buying your people a small Xmas gift and then host a morning tea or lunch with secret Santa on your last day of work. Give people the afternoon off.
If these ideas just sound like a total nerd-out and you cannot possibly fathom the idea of a Christmas party without booze, here are some tips:
- Make sure a few of your team remain sober… no, not just the HR folks!
- Have plenty of food and structure the event so the food gets eaten.
- Have plenty of non-alcoholic options and make them interesting, such as “mocktails”.
- Organise transport – if the company is putting on the drink then you have an obligation to ensure everyone's safety, which includes getting home safely.
- Don’t go overboard with the quantities of liquor and remember it’s against the law to serve alcohol to drunk people.
- Have a clear finish time, so it doesn’t drag into the night… or the next morning.
Trust that most people (the vast majority, in fact) are mature and restrained enough to know how to have a good time without taking the expression 'the silly season' too literally.
If in doubt, create a Xmas party policy
Of course, there are some people that can get a little rowdy or find they can't control themselves quite as the company and colleagues would expect.
There may also be small number of people who find the office Christmas party an anxious time. They may have had a bad experience at a previous event, been subjected to inappropriate behaviour, or done something that has cost them dearly.
To ensure things stay respectful and seemly, you may want to issue a Christmas party policy that sets some clear boundaries and specifies the company's expectations.
Rather than making it a stock-standard, dry document, try and have some fun with the wording. Staff will be much more likely to actually read and understand it. Try inserting some clauses like:
- It might surprise you but that good-looking 24-year-old girl in marketing doesn’t actually want a kiss from a sweaty 45-year-old.
- No, that hot guy in sales is not enjoying you touching his leg… particularly as his pregnant wife is at the party, too.
- When you’re in the zone on the dance floor and you can feel your inner Beyoncé or Channing Tatum about to bust out… please keep all items of clothing on.
Issue the party policy at a meeting, so you can speak to people like adults about what you expect, and enlist the support of everybody to ensure the event goes well.
Then enjoy! ’Tis the season to be jolly after all.