It’s holiday time and the company party is looming over HR like Marley’s ghost. The newsletters and Internet are stuffed like stockings full of the same old advice on how to avoid a holiday party catastrophe. Here are some new takes on the Auld Lang Syne of party pointers:
Invite Spouses and Kids: Nothing derails a hoped-for ride on the office love train like the presence of the wife or husband and kids, even someone else’s. Think of those overactive and underage party guests as unintentional chaperones. The family atmosphere will also inhibit the overindulgence that has so often set the stage for many of the horrors of holidays past.
For a Good Time, Exercise Good Timing: It’s like critical mass – all of the employees in the same place, at the same time, with nothing to do but drink and talk. What’s the only thing they all have in common? Work! What are they going to talk about? You guessed it. And if the year-end bonuses just came out and were a little thin, or annual evals happened to fall two weeks ago; or, worst of all, layoffs are planned, that critical mass could explode. One of the first party-planning chats you have should be with top management. See if there’s bad news on the horizon and plan to have the party before the ax falls. Let the good times roll – before the heads do.
Better a Buzz Kill than Road Kill: In these days of ride sharing services at the click of an icon, there is no excuse for having impaired employees drive away from your party and into a crash – and then court, with the company liable. It’s difficult to take someone’s keys away from them, but it may be a little easier when it’s the department head doing the taking – and there’s a ride home available in three minutes. You can even arrange for dedicated service for your party, which makes it seem like a perk and not a slap when you tell someone you’re not letting them drive.
It’s Fun, Not Forced Labor: Everyone understands that money’s perpetually tight. But that’s no excuse to press-gang employees into being party staff. This is a recipe for resentment, particularly if it’s the low-paid assistants and clerical staff who end up serving the higher-ups – hey, how’s that different from any other day at work? Do you want good cheer? Make sure the party’s for everyone.
Hall Monitor – Somebody’s Got to Do It, and That Means You: While everyone else is letting their hair down at the party, someone has to stay properly coiffed and ready to stop problems before they start. Sorry, but HR has to be the grown-up in the room. You’re trained to deflect, defuse, and, if necessary, defend against the problems above and more. It’s going to be up to you to save the party and save the company.
One more thing: Happy Holidays!
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