Let's Pull the Plug on Office Holiday Parties

John Commins, November 29, 2010

There are few things in our professional lives that provide a greater risk of peril with so few rewards than the annual office holiday party. To many workers, these contrived and tortuously staged attempts at mandatory good cheer are as welcomed as a holiday fruit cake.


Bah! I say get rid of them.

The justifications for the holiday party usually include a sincere expression of appreciation for employees' hard work throughout the year, or providing an opportunity for employees who rarely have contact with one another to meet in a "casual" environment. A closer look reveals flawed thinking. If the office holiday party is your way of telling employees you appreciate their hard work or your strategy for employee bonding, you've probably already failed.

Let's be honest, for many companies, the annual office holiday party is just another business function, wearing a party dress and sipping eggnog. Attendance usually is not mandatory, but miss it at your peril! And it's a little arrogant for supervisors to presume that employees want to spend time socializing with them.

I came across this soul-crushing list of office party "Dos & Don'ts" from Quintessential Careers, an HR consulting firm whose other titles include Surviving the Office Holiday Party. QC reminds us: "You can take advantage of the office party to have some fun and advance your career or misbehave and cripple your career."

Quintessential's tips include:

  • Do remember that although office parties are intended as social events to reward employees and raise morale, they remain strictly business events.
  • Do act as though your behavior is being observed every minute (because it probably is).
  • Don't pass up the invitation to an office party; not attending could hurt your reputation. And when you attend, do spend at least 30 minutes at the party for appearances. But don't overstay your welcome by partying until the wee hours.
  • Do conduct yourself professionally at all times. Don't use the office party as an excuse to blow off steam. It's still a company function, so proper etiquette and decorum matter.
  • Don't bring the party lampshade, gag gifts for the boss, or any other crazy stuff you might do at a personal holiday party.
  • Do enjoy yourself at the party. Employers spend the big bucks to reward their employees, so be sure to enjoy the one holiday gifts you may be getting from the company.
John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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