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

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.

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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.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. She's also an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find her at patty@azzarellogroup.com .

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8 Comments on “Yes, Most People Really Do Hate (and Dread) Your Annual Holiday Party

  1. Patty – You nailed it! That’s exactly how most of our employees see it and tell us. Gift cards may seem impersonal, but most folks would take a gift card any day over a weekend party. AND – we gets more thank yous for the gift cards! I hope management gets a copy of your article before the party money is gone.

  2. Team building is our goal, so we’re on the right track. Management also buys gift exchange gifts at a minimum of $100 each and the employees get to do the gift exchange without having to buys the gift!

  3. We are a small construction company and we used to have a fancy, dress-up dinner party and dance on a Saturday night in December that only 1/4 of the employees came to with their spouses. We changed that to a 2 hour lunch on a Friday in December that only the staff attend. Now everybody is paid to attend, they get food and drinks plus gifts and it encourages them to get to know each other in a stress free environment. We don’t do any power point presentations and speeches, we just give out prizes while they eat. This was received very well!

  4. We measure employee mood daily and hear the same stories about “fun” parties. When leaders go to the dashboard to see how the party went they always expect to see a mood spike among their coworkers. Many times it’s just the opposite. Sometimes companies get a happiness score that’s much lower than a “typical” day in the office.

    Leaders sometimes don’t understand why: “I asked and people said they really liked my party!?”. It then turns out they organized it after office hours, etc. If you ask a person directly if they liked the fun party they organized… not many people would be brave enough to say “uhm, no not really”.

    I like holiday parties though 🙂

  5. I cannot believe it, our department is having a X-Mas party, even though it is against corporate policy and is on our own personal time and at a BAR no less. No food either. I told them to stick it.

  6. I’m one of the 50% of introverts, and I hate parties no matter when or where you hold them. It’s not that I don’t like people or my co-workers or my bosses. As an introvert, it just stresses me out to be at social gatherings, and there’s enough stress this time of year. Unfortunately, most HR people, managers and people who plan events are likely to be extroverts who often don’t understand introverts and think we are just closet extroverts who need to be forced into socializing for our own good. The truth is, introverts only attend these things to make extroverts feel better. How about once in a while you extroverts do something to make us feel better like give us a free day off at the end of the year to stay home and watch our favorite show on netflix.

  7. Somewhat introverted. Don’t really care for my co-workers at work let alone on my time for the price of a meal. I don’t celebrate holidays or birthdays. But darned if I don’t get the “what’s wrong with her” look when I opt out from cake during birthday celebrations and holiday potlucks. Want to build a team? Do the work.

  8. Here’s the kind of party most people will actually attend : In office building, right after work hours, or starting one hour before the end of regular work hours. Some food, beer in the fridge.

    That’s it, it’s literally that simple.

    Those who wouldn’t go will stick around for an hour, those would go anyway will be there anyway, ready to push away tables and dance to a bluetooth speaker. It makes exactly no difference.

    Doing a big happening an hour away on a weekend is a fucking CHORE.

    Poll your employees with an anonymous survey and tell me I’m wrong.

    No one actually gives a shit about office parties, let alone big complicated ones that include a 3 hour round trip.

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