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The festive season is upon us and ‘tis the time for celebrations. But there is a party pooper at the good old office Christmas soiree. The specter of #MeToo haunts and yet another one bites the dust. This year sees a lull in office Christmas parties with just 65% of companies in the US hosting them. This will be the lowest number since the recession when just 62% of companies went in the party mode during Christmas 2009. The lull is not just about a hashtag, but millennials are not overtly enthused over an office party wherein they have to sip some formal drinks with their baby boomer bosses.
Christmas parties are not just about Christmas anymore:
The parties today are not what they used to be in the 1950s or the 70s or even the 80s. You do not run the risk of gin in a water cooler, clothes strewn down the office corridor or long disgruntled monologues of employees venting it all out on bosses, colleagues and what not. The last incident is what HR nightmares are made of, even today. The office parties at the Wolf of the Wall Street, the 2013 biopic may look preposterous and in all fairness Hollywood portrayal of office, parties tend to be a far stretch from the reality. But office parties in the yesteryear were the playing field of the ambitious. The wise counselors then would have suggested that you may very well dart your resignation letter as a paper plane into your boss’ cabin if you were intending to skip the office party.
But the scene has changed since then and we are not arguing the good and bad of it. Companies are going inclusive and are pretty much like the non-denominational sweater that the character Mary Winetoss (played by Emmy Winner Kate McKinnon) wore in her introductory scene from Office Christmas Party. The makers of the movie disclosed that months of work went in weaving a sweater as there was no real-life version of it. Makes you smirk how that sweater is similar to the culture of inclusivity you weave to create a diverse organization. Talking of diversity, there was a certain episode of ‘Friends’ wherein Ross Geller teaches his son about the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. The baby steps toward cultural inclusivity.
When you are drafting that festive invitation for the party do not make it compulsory.
The 50s were different, but now you have people who:
As an HR you see parties as a great time for some cross-departmental bonding. You want all of them to attend it. But you end up seeing the familiar water-cooler groups talking over drinks and food. It is an in-group phenomenon and a single party day cannot spin some miracle.
As there was a mention of food and drinks, it’s time to answer the elephant or rather the drunken elephant in the room.
The movie Office Christmas Party tore down the corporate pecking order. The higher-ups and the worker ants all together jump in the alcohol driven bandwagon to give the audience an uproarious comedic kick-start. But, HR knows better, that in real life it would have meant some post-party firings and worse, some tangible lawsuits against the company.
The organization threw the bash and it is still office hour.
So, be Mary Winetoss, the head of HR from the Office Christmas Party and be a stickler for rules. Employees may call you uptight, but they will thank you later. Even if they do not, you will save your company from a lot of after-party embarrassments. The winning crown will go to you.
While you are going inclusive, do not restrict it to food and drinks. Plan activities for all. Having a casino set up is good, but not all are overly fond of blackjacks or gambling. People may have religious restrictions or have a compulsive gambler in the family, who destroyed gambling for them. Go for multiple games. Maybe have a vote!
Mind the social media. People post everything for the world to see. A keg drinking competition video with your company logo as a backdrop – that is a viral nightmare. Do not put a blanket ban on social media rather make that hashtag work in your favor. Ask your employees to use a particular hashtag while they post something from the party, curate it and delete the inappropriate ones. Before the party, shoot an email, refresh those social media and general etiquettes for your employees.
It is almost that time of the year and the party preparations are on a war footing. What is your office Christmas party theme for this year? How do you plan to steer it?
Wishing everyone a happy festive season!