Tis the Season for Company Holiday Parties

Posted on December 8, 2011 by Jan Cooney in Best Practices, Culture

By Jan Cooney, a member of TriNet’s Human Capital Services team

Business leaders want to recognize employees for the hard work and dedication they have provided all year. One form of this celebration is what has become known as the annual ‘holiday party’.   If you choose this method of celebration, there are basic etiquette and safety reminders to follow.

First off, try to avoid linking the celebration to a religious holiday. Unless you know EVERY employee celebrates the birth of Christ on December 25th, don’t call it a Christmas Party. Pretty basic stuff, but being insensitive to employee’s religious beliefs, and assuming everyone celebrates Christmas…well, we all know what ‘assume’ means! There are many optional headlines to use when you send out the party announcement:  Join the Celebration, End of Year Wrap Up, We Want to Thank You, and of course the one most commonly used: the Company Holiday Party.

Here are some items to keep in mind:

  • Make attendance voluntary: Ensure all employees feel welcome, but don’t make them feel like their attendance is mandatory. No one wants to feel their job is in jeopardy if they choose to not attend.
  • Choosing the venue: Your budget will determine the location of the party.  Decide if you are inviting spouses/domestic partners/ significant others.  If you select an offsite location, be sure it is business appropriate. Ask yourself: would everyone be comfortable at, e.g., Hooters? If available, hold the party at a venue located near public transportation, to minimize potential drinking and driving.
  • Food and Beverages: If you will be serving alcohol, consider distributing drink tickets vs. extending an open bar.  That will limit alcohol consumption.  The beverage station is most effective if servers/bartenders are used.  Do not use your employees as bartenders.  In all cases be sure there is plenty of food rich in protein and starches, as well as non-alcoholic beverages.  (Note: most liability policies don’t cover alcohol-related incidents. Furthermore, an employer may be held liable for employees’ actions during any type of company-sponsored party, as well as for any injuries incurred. To top it off, employees who are injured at company-sponsored holiday parties may be eligible to receive worker’s compensation benefits.) It’s also a good idea to provide a variety of entertainment (i.e. dancing, games, photo booths) so that drinking is not the focus of the party.
  • Conduct: This is a company sponsored event, remind employees to conduct themselves appropriately. That means among other things, leaving the mistletoe at home!
  • What if?: Be willing to hire a taxi service or make alternate transportation arrangements  if someone has overindulged. Discretely pull the person aside, try not to make an issue in front of the other attendees.
  • And last: Do recognize employees – acknowledge their efforts and success in ensuring their importance to the organization. And ENJOY the celebration!