Yes, Most People Really Do Hate (and Dread) Your Annual Holiday Party

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Dec 8, 2014
This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.

Editor’s Note: The holiday season is here, and TLNT is again getting into the spirit with some classic past holiday posts. Look for them until Christmas Eve.

I have thought about this for years, and I finally decided to write about this because several people have approached me already this year about dreading their office holiday party.

So I’m going to say it: Most people hate your holiday party.

To the executives and the people who help plan these things, please consider the following:

The 3 groups in your organization

  • Introverts – About half of your employees are introverts, and forced socialization is not pleasant for them. So no matter what type of party you have, the introvert segment of your employee base will never see this as a perk. It is just an additional, energy-draining social requirement.
  • Extroverts – About half of your people are extroverts, and while they will likely love the idea of a party, the love will stop and will also turn to dread when they find out your party is on a weekend. I have never seen anyone in my whole life, on their way to a weekend work party, who was excited about it.
  • Everyone – About 100 percent of your people are extra-busy in December with their own holiday prep, personal parties, and social obligations, so a holiday party that is not during regular work hours is an unwelcome time-demand.

What is your real desired outcome?

So when you are planning your holiday party, I suggest you first consider your real desired outcome.

Is it to:

  • Thank people?
  • Motivate people?
  • Do team building?

Thank people

If your only motivation is to thank people, I humbly suggest you take the per-head budget for the party and just give people gift cards.

If you really want to achieve your desired outcome, deliver the gift cards personally to each employee and thank them personally for something specific they did. Tell them how their effort helped you or the business this year.

Does that sound harder than having someone arrange a party? Yep, but it gets you your desired outcome.

Motivate people

If your desired outcome is to motivate people, do something that makes their job more meaningful.

Remember, a party will never be the thing that motivates 100 percent of your people.

Do team building

If your desired outcome is team building, and you believe that a holiday party is a good opportunity to get your team together, then perhaps you are on the right track.

But please, just don’t do it on the weekend.

Why weekend parties don’t work

If you sent out a confidential survey and asked people to rank in order which things they would prefer for the holiday celebration and gave them the choices of:

  • Gift card;
  • Party during work hours;
  • Dinner on a weeknight; or,
  • Party on a weekend.

Well, no one would choose the weekend.

What you are basically saying by having your holiday celebration on the weekend is that, “It’s not enough for me to tell you what to do during the work week. I also need you to demonstrate your loyalty to me by giving up weekend time during the busiest time of the year in your personal life.”

You gotta make your party an actual perk

I’m not saying don’t have a holiday party. I’m just saying please respect your employees, and don’t pretend that a weekend party in December is a perk.

Show people that you are doing this for THEM. Make it an actual perk. Make them feel appreciated and motivated by making it convenient and fun, respecting their personal time, and giving them a break from work.

And if you don’t want to give them a break from work, well, give them a gift card instead.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life.

This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.
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