IIDM: Christmas Parties - A Leader's Guide On How To Make Sure They're Fun For All - Michelle Gibbings

In this article for the International Institute of Directors & Managers, Michelle has tips to make sure the office Christmas party is fun for all.

As the working year starts to wrap up, attention turns to the end-of-year work function and enjoying the summer and festive season.

These events are a great chance to reconnect with colleagues, say farewell to the year and recognise achievements.

Successful events don’t happen by chance. Focus on understanding your team’s needs and ways to foster inclusivity while ensuring the celebrations align seamlessly with your organisation’s values and culture.

Set the tone

Before diving into the logistics of party planning, take a moment to reflect on how you will ensure the event aligns with your organisation’s culture.

Whether it’s collaboration, diversity or innovation, your party should mirror the principles that guide your day-to-day operations. For example, if teamwork is a core value, incorporate team-building activities into the festivities. If your organisation values work-life balance, consider hosting the party within work hours.

Opt for inclusive, not exclusive

A crucial step is understanding your team’s diverse backgrounds and preferences, including their cultural, religious and personal beliefs. Remember, what may seem like a harmless tradition to some may not be comfortable for others.

The festive season is an excellent opportunity to recognise the richness of our community. If you are considering a theme or activities, seek your team’s suggestions and preferences to ensure the approach caters for diverse interests and abilities and allows everyone to feel comfortable and be involved. The same goes for venue location and catering.

This approach reinforces the importance of teamwork and demonstrates your interest and care for your team.

Set expectations clearly

Talk with your team about expectations and boundaries.

Are you holding the event during work time, and is attending it compulsory? Are partners invited? What other issues might they be concerned about? How is the event being funded?

It helps to understand the range of perspectives on this issue.

Once the details are locked in, ensure your communication is clear, positive and timely. For example, provide precise details about the event and what’s expected when they attend. Do this well before the event, and respect that it is a busy time of year. If you don’t offer ample notice, there may be diary clashes.

Know the rules

Even though the calendar invitation might include the word ‘party’, remember it is still work. This rule applies regardless of the function’s location – the office or an external venue.

We’ve all heard or witnessed stories of colleagues who have gone too far at the office party and then lived to regret their unwise behaviour. Too loud. Too boisterous. Too much drinking. The list could go on. While it’s a party and a time to celebrate, you want to know your limits so you don’t wake up fearing the answer to the question, ‘What did I do last night?’.

You can have fun and be professional at the same time. You don’t want to leave your reputation behind at the party, and your behaviour sets the standard for what’s acceptable.

Your organisation’s code of conduct and workplace laws apply, and if you overstep the mark, there won’t only be consequences for your reputation and job, you could face legal issues.

Be present and team focused

The event is a great chance to bond and get to know people in a more relaxed environment. So, talk to people across the team and organisation.

You want to keep the conversation casual and fun. Avoid conversations that could offend, and be careful about moaning about your job, boss or colleagues. You may not remember who you have spoken with, but the person you have shared with is likely to remember everything you have said, and your words may come back to bite you.

If you spend much of the event on your phone, you miss interacting with your colleagues. Also, it can come across as rude because your colleagues may interpret your behaviour as a disinterest in them and the team.

Take a moment during the celebration to acknowledge and celebrate your team’s hard work and dedication. Express gratitude for the collective efforts and successes. Encourage team members to share their highlights and aspirations for the coming year.

Most importantly, look after your team. You want everyone to have fun and get home safely. So, if you see a colleague who has perhaps overdone it, don’t judge. Instead, find an appropriate way to help. It might be ensuring they get safely into a taxi/uber or finding a trusted colleague to take them home.

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