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holiday party

Ready or not, it’s company holiday party season. Many employees love the festive bash while others dread the event as forced merriment. It seems that the number and size of holiday parties have not faced a slowdown. CareerBuilder’s Annual Holiday Survey reports that 59 percent of employers are throwing parties, same percentage as last year, while 54 percent indicated that the celebration will be slightly bigger than the 2012 event.

While you are counting down the days consider these 12 ways to make the company holiday party merry:

1. Announce a recommendation for attire. It can be jeans to jewels but will be helpful if everyone knows this so the boss is not the only one who shows up in a cocktail dress.

2. Remind employees about expected workplace behavior. It’s never pretty when an employee makes an unwelcome sexual advance towards another employee. It really dampens the festivities when the pursuer is acting under the influence of a little too much party punch.

3. Check the entertainment first. Review the act for the night, or at least have a conversation about no-nos, before the comedian walks on stage. They may have been great at the convention but have a few new jokes that are guaranteed to offend.

4. State a clear guest policy. It can be employees only, one guest, or the entire neighborhood. Your choice, but make it clear before one manager walks in with his spouse and two kids.

5. Think about alcohol consumption. I remember the company party with 300+ employees and a four hour open bar. Most of the people who attended probably don’t. You can choose to limit the number of drinks, serve only wine and beer or make last call an hour before the party ends. It’s not rude or cheap; it will save someone from embarrassment, and a potential career ending faux pas.

6. Be prepared for a designated driver. Bosses don’t let employees drive home drunk.

7. Be prepared for the after party. Some employees have already planned for the next venue after the company holiday party. This doesn’t mean a senior manager tags along, or organizes the outing, and then picks up the check. Make expense account expectations clear before post-party planning is complete.

8. Make sure any gifts are appropriate. Did I tell you about the time I received an expensive crystal Christmas tree ornament at the senior management holiday party? I’m Jewish.

9. Don’t make special arrangements. You may think no one notices that the Controller is drinking premium vodka. They will. And when the party is employee only but the company president brings his wife, so she can thank everyone, be prepared for grumbling and gossip.

10. Circulate. Within 30 minutes of the company party start there is one table for Accounting, another for Marketing and a third for Engineering. If you can’t break up the cliques at least you can walk around and say hello and happy holidays.

11. Keep speeches to a minimum. My preference is no speeches at all. They break the flow of food, music, and conversation. But if you must, keep it short with general wishes and acknowledgements. Don’t praise one superstar and leave others out.

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About Rebecca Mazin

Rebecca Mazin creates usable solutions for employers to meet increasingly complicated human resources challenges. Her Recruit Right consulting, training, and writing produces consistently measurable results in organizations from small startups to industry giants. Rebecca is the author of First Time Firing, The Employee Benefits Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Business Owners and co-authored The HR Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Human Resources Professionals. Follow Rebecca on Twitter @thehranswer.

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