Over the course of my career I’ve attended myriad Christmas parties — some I’ve enjoyed, some I’ve survived. My wife would tell you that I’m not really much of a party sort of guy. She claims I tend to avoid them rather than enjoy them. Nevertheless, holiday parties are part of the workplace for most companies, so let me share six tips for surviving yours:
1. Don’t forget to thank the host: Whether you enjoy the company party or not, Christmas parties are expensive and time-consuming to orchestrate. Being gracious to the host is not only polite — it’s smart. If you’re new to the company, it’s also a good time to introduce your spouse, significant other or partner to the boss. It’s a courtesy that should be extended to the host at any event, including the company Christmas party.
2. Ask about the dress code: I’ve attended very casual Christmas parties at local restaurants over dinner and white elephant gifts, as well as very formal gatherings in the ballrooms of large hotels. There’s nothing worse than showing up underdressed for the occasion. The only thing worse than showing up to a semi-formal event in a sweater is hearing your wife remind you that you said it would be OK to wear slacks.
3. Don’t be afraid to sit with people you don’t know very well: This isn’t a problem in smaller companies where everyone knows each other, but as companies get bigger, it can become problematic. At many company parties, teams tend to sit together (because they know each other). Feel free to step out of your comfort zone and meet some of the folks you don’t normally encounter during the day. Although it might feel like taking your best friend’s sister to the Homecoming Dance so she doesn’t have to sit at home alone, you’ll probably have a good time and might even make a few new friends.
4. There’s nothing wrong with polite conversation: Some of the best times I’ve had at the company Christmas party have been spent visiting with my colleagues and their significant others over dinner. Although we sometimes look down our noses at small talk, sometimes it’s pretty fun. If you’re bored of the conversation at your table, do something about it. Most people will join the conversation even if they’re hesitant to start it.
5. Enjoy the thrill of victory and don’t dwell on the agony of defeat: If you’re company gives away prizes (like many companies do), be gracious if you win and gracious if you don’t. I have one colleague who won the big-screen TV several times in a row at our company Christmas party. During that same time, the guy who usually sat next to him hadn’t won anything in six or seven years. Remember that random drawings are just that: random drawings. I would just like to take the multi-year winner to Vegas.
6. Have a good time: I’ve been to company parties that were fun and some that weren'. Most of the time it was the attitude I took to the party that determined whether or not it was any fun. Choose to have fun, but not too much fun.
What are some of the best company Christmas parties you’ve attended? What do you do to ensure that you and your employees have a good time? Do you have any additional survival tips I’ve left out?
As a Main Street business evangelist and marketing veteran with more than 25 years in the trenches, Ty Kiisel writes about leading people and small-business issues for Lendio (www.lendio.com).