Is work the place for a party?
The do's and don'ts of celebrating at the office
Employees of Beyond Design have lunch in the garden Monday, May 3, 2010 adjacent to their Ravenswood office building. Some experts say work get-togethers can increase employee satisfaction. (Chris Walker/ Chicago Tribune)
"When you have any sort of party at work, it's not just a party, it's a message," said Linda Henman, who has been coaching businesses and CEOs for more than three decades. "The decision maker has to ask, 'What message do I want to send?' Ordinarily that message should be 'I appreciate my employees.' "
"Two years ago Enterprise Rent-A-Car stopped having their Christmas party because they had laid off so many people and they didn't want to send the message that they should celebrate when times are tough," she said. "I think that was a smart thing to do."
But Brian Hansen, chief operating officer of CanopyHR Solutions, disagrees.
"Even in a tough economy, sometimes a little get-together is just what the office needs to boost morale and bring people closer together," he said. "Your employees need to be motivated and this can help."
Henman said your staff will see through the efforts if you don't have a well-managed team.
"One assistant told me, 'I'm sick of them trying to bribe me into thinking this is a nice place to work. Bringing in pizza does not make this a good place to work,' " she said.
According to Hansen, the work party provides an opportunity to get ahead and make connections that would not normally be available.
"Executives are the ones who set things up at these functions, and if you want some quality time with the boss where nobody else is around, show up early," he said. "In a relaxed environment away from work, it could be a time to ask for that raise or just build a rapport with someone you might not normally be able to bond with."
Thinking of having a work soiree? Here are some tips.
Implement a policy and stick to it.
"Every celebration should be the same across the board," Henman said. "Same location, same catering company, so there is no resentment that someone got 'more' or a 'better' party. But let the person being celebrated pick the menu from the catering company."
"Everyone needs to look at their insurance policy," Hansen said. "There could be alcohol exclusion policies. But if there isn't, the boss should remind people of the guidelines, especially around social media. Don't take a picture of your co-worker drinking wine and post it on Facebook."
Celebrate milestones rather than birthdays.
"Not all workers want to draw attention to their age, so rather than a birthday, focus on someone who has dedicated years of service to the company," Henman said. "Don't bother with the 7-year anniversary — just the milestones."
Less is more.
"Too many parties can be a distraction," Henman said."You could have a picnic once a year when the weather is nice, and in the winter, you can plan a Thanksgiving or holiday party. [Parties] lose their impact if they happen too often."
Don't blow it off.
"Even though most companies won't say they are mandatory, they really are," Hansen said. "A company won't go through spending the money if they didn't want everyone to be there."