7 Tips for Successful Holiday Parties

The holidays are a great time to celebrate employee achievements and many companies have long traditions of hosting holiday parties to do just that.  Managed well, these celebrations provide a great opportunity to bolster employee morale and give leadership an opportunity to engage with the team outside of the office.  When excessive alcohol is served, or the event isn’t presented in an inclusive way, companies miss out on the cultural uplift these events provide.

Avoid holiday party pitfalls by following these quick tips at this year’s event:

  1. Make sure the party is inclusive. Not everyone is Christian, so the Christmas parties of the past should transform to holiday celebrations.  This can be achieved by naming the event in an inclusive way and scheduling the party around all religious holidays in December and January.
  2. Limit or eliminate free alcohol. Gone are the days of the open bar at holiday celebrations.  It is acceptable, and more common, to limit free alcohol with drink tickets or to offer only a cash bar.  Sadly, alcohol plays a role in many of the workplace misconduct cases I’ve encountered, and unlimited alcohol at work sponsored parties is a big contributor.  Make sure to let your employees know if there will be new rules at this year’s celebration so they can plan accordingly.
  3. Offer free transportation via Uber, Lyft or a taxi service. This is a great benefit for employees whether they drink or not.  Many times, holiday parties are in the city or out of the way locations and parking and transportation can be a challenge for everyone.  Offering free transportation to those who are drinking should be standard to limit exposure and ensure everyone arrives home safely.
  4. Expect leaders to role model appropriate behavior. The best way to avoid misconduct that could result in a harassment claim is to ensure organizational leaders role model good behavior.  When leaders are drinking moderately or not at all, engaging with team members in a casual yet professional way, and monitoring consumption, employees are more likely to be on their best behavior.
  5. Allow employees to invite a guest. Companies gain significant street cred when they allow employees to invite a guest to the celebration.  This has a two-fold benefit:  the guest (friend, partner, relative) will appreciate the gesture and reinforce the positive attributes of the organization, resulting in increased engagement, and the employee tends to be on better behavior when they have a guest in tow.
  6. Keep it extracurricular. Make attendance voluntary, hold it outside work hours and consider an off sight location.  This will increase the festive feeling and avoid making something intended to be fun, feel like an obligation.
  7. Reduce intoxication. In addition to limiting the amount of alcohol served, there are steps you can take to  help prevent over-drinking.  Serving food, even if they are just light snacks, helps balance any alcohol consumed.  Holding the party in the afternoon rather than at night also tends to decrease the likelihood that people will over imbibe.  Hire professional bartenders that will cut people off when they’ve had too much.  Finally, have a set end time so that the festivities wrap up before drinking gets out of hand.

LinkedIn and SHRM have other great resources to check out on this topic.  Have a great time celebrating with your employees this holiday season and use this opportunity to set the stage for a productive 2020.  Cheers!