From plunging, sequined necklines to alcohol-fueled displays of inappropriate behavior, office holiday parties are often the source of stories that will live in infamy.
If you want to celebrate with your staff, but you’re concerned about potential fallout, don’t worry—you can take back control, says event planner Greg Jenkins, founder of Long Beach, Calif.-based Bravo Productions. He offers four tips to help curb bad behavior while still having some holiday fun.
Check your tone. If your company just laid off a few people or cut year-end bonuses, a lavish end-of-year party is a big “don’t,” Jenkins says. Instead, he advises treating your holiday party as you would any campaign launch. Keep the tone and theme in alignment with overall company conditions. If times are tough, scale back the expensive meal and do something more conservative in the office or at a less expensive venue, perhaps making a small donation to a local charity as a show of good will.
Address the dress code. You don’t want to be Scrooge McFashion, but if you want to avoid questionable clothing choices, make sure you set the tone. Jenkins likes to include “dressy casual” as a dress code note on invitations to let people know not to overdress or that they don’t have to go out and spend money on new clothes for the party. Alternatively, you could go with the beloved “ugly sweater” party, which levels the playing field by letting everyone trot out that reindeer sweater given by a well-meaning relative years ago.
Lose—or limit—the booze. Many poor decisions are made when the alcohol is flowing. Jenkins recommends ditching the open bar and opting for drink tickets. After the first two, employees foot their own bill. He also recommends working with the venue to create a festive non-alcoholic “mocktail” that is fun to drink, but doesn’t make people think it’s a good idea to weigh in on the boss’ weight problem after drinking one or two.
Change the venue. Instead of doing the same-old banquet hall or restaurant where people are left to eat, drink, and make unfortunate moves on the dance floor, try something new. If you have a young, active staff, a day at the ice or roller rink could be a good way to have fun and get some exercise. Depending on your location, you could go horseback riding, schedule a few rounds of laser tag, or even rent a movie theater for a private showing. Be creative and get out of the ho-hum holiday party rut, Jenkins says.