Dos and Don'ts for Workplace Celebrations

To party or not to party? That is the question, writes Gusti Coetzer


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Fun rarely features on the corporate agenda. This changes at the end of the calendar year. It’s time for the office party. It’s also time to keep a clear head and engage in some smart party planning.

The season to be jolly is also a season to re-motivate teams and recharge batteries, though these opportunities are frequently neglected by businesses that fail to obtain proper returns on their annual investment in festive fun.

The result is a recurring hangover rather than a revitalised business.

To achieve an improved outcome it is necessary to take stock of the annual festivities. 

Management must consider: Why have a party? Should we have one at all? What are our objectives? What pitfalls must we avoid? 

A party can actually be cost-justified. There is mounting evidence happy employees work harder. They also produce happy customers, vital in a tough economy when customer retention is critical.

The impact of demoralisation must also be considered. The budget for social activities is often cut when business is tight. However, it can be a false economy if staff motivation and performance plummet.

Once the party gets the go-ahead, businesses must make the most of it.

Many corporate commentators regard the office party as a key tool in the achievement of important goals. For instance:

  • It can be combined with team-building to bolster company spirit
  • It can contribute to staff retention and foster loyalty
  • It provides an opportunity to celebrate key milestones
  • It can become a showcase of shared values and the corporate culture
  • It can create “shared memories”, thereby building shared purpose
  • It is a chance to see other team members in a new setting and a different light – social mixing can improve working relations

Clear objectives enable businesses to avoid many pitfalls.

Deeply held corporate values can hardly be communicated by selecting some dubious dive as the party venue.

A business that prides itself on professionalism will also take pride in professional organisation of the end-of-year party, even if it’s merely a braai on the company lawn.

If broad recognition of team success is crucial, the firm will avoid the mistake of combining the occasion with a prize-giving for exceptional performers. You can’t celebrate everyone and reward a few stellar achievers at the same event.

It is also important to display a sense of responsibility by making transport arrangements for those who may enjoy too much festive spirit.

Foresight is never amiss. This includes a gentle reminder to staff about company policy on the posting of inappropriate images on social media. An office party should enhance your company brand.

Rudimentary research confirms how much employees appreciate the annual party. In a diverse workforce, it becomes a chance to gain insights into how other groups behave in a social setting.

One respondent to an office party questionnaire commented "it brings us closer together as a family of colleagues and I see how other people celebrate" and "it only comes but once a year; it’s important to have a bit of fun after 12 long months" – confirming what many business writers and staff motivators have said all along.

About the author: Auguste (Gusti) Coetzer is Director, Executive Search, at TALENT AFRICA a member of Signium. They offer integrated talent solutions to clients nationally and in sub-Saharan Africa. Talent Africa is proudly a level 2 BBBEE contributor.

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