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10 Embarrassing Holiday Party #Fails … And How to Avoid Them

Posted by Samantha Diamond on 20 Nov 2014

You’re planning the company holiday party, and all you want for Christmas is to make sure the main feature of your fancy, expensive offsite event isn’t a drunken manager telling awkward stories, co-workers playing swords with toilet plungers or Eddie from accounting sleeping off a hangover under his desk.

And yes, all of these things have actually happenedDon't let yours be THAT company holiday party

So, let’s take a proactive approach. Here are the top 10 things that could ruin your company holiday party this year … and how to avoid them.

  1. Terrible Food
    Don’t skimp on the catering – you can consider your event sufficiently ruined when the food goes untouched and the guests start getting hangry (that’s hungry + angry). First figure out if you’re doing plated dinner, passed hors d’oeuvres or a buffet, then get the menu right. And remember to include options for your vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free guests!

  2. Asking Employees to Work
    Seems like a no-brainer. But, believe it or not, people have been asked to work during their company party. If phone coverage is that big of a concern, hire someone to answer calls, or set a lovely “we aren’t here because we’re celebrating the holidays early” message. Everyone deserves a break. And allowing an opportunity to socialize for colleagues can help to build company culture. 

  3. Drunken Shenanigans
    Your employees can probably handle an open bar … you’re all adults here, right? Wrong. Even otherwise mature adults can make bad decisions. If you want to prevent any boozed up debauchery, close the bar a couple of hours before the party ends, or offer guests two drink tickets each. If you have an extremely unruly crowd, you can even go as far as serving drinks with dinner only. Ultimately, this is a professional event, so it’s better sober than sorry.

  4. Leaders Behaving Badly
    While you might expect a certain level of irresponsibility from some junior colleagues, what you really need to watch out for are senior leaders cutting a little too loose. There are numerous cases of CEOs, managers and presidents making people uncomfortable at work parties by acting inappropriately. Remind everyone (including management!) that although you may not be at the office, you’re still at a work event. Maybe remind management twice.

  5. Getting Too Personal
    It’s a holiday party, not a retreat. Save the hippy-dippy team bonding and awkward ice-breaker exercises for another occasion. People want to enjoy themselves and, for most of your guests, that means not being required to share their deepest fears, discuss the age at which they lost their virginity or team up with Andy from accounting in some weird trust exercise.

  6. Embarrassing Your Employees
    Going along with the previous point, don’t embarrass your employees with mandatory activities. Casual karaoke is great – required karaoke is a nightmare for people with stage fright. An office gift swap is a lovely idea – a mandatory gift exchange, where each person comes up to receive their “Secret Santa” gift, will cause anxiety and resentment. 

  7. Inconvenient Venue
    Look for a venue that’s convenient for the majority of people – and book it well in advance. If your party will be at a hotel downtown, consider getting a room block and parking vouchers or transportation options for guests to ensure everyone gets home safely.

    Check out 19 Work Perks That Boost Company Culture Without Killing Your Bottom Line
  8. Forgetting the Kids
    Just because you don't invite kids to your holiday party doesn't mean you should forget about themYou don’t have to invite kids to the company party, but if you’re going to give your employees a night out on the town -- give them a real night out on the town. For employees with young kids, attending the evening holiday party will cost $50 (or more) for a night of child care, plus the added stress of finding an available sitter. Lend a hand by offering backup care or date night sitters, either through the company benefits program or a one-time reimbursement. (Learn more here) 

  9. Going Viral – For the Wrong Reasons
    If you want to avoid becoming part of the next compilation of office party “fail” videos, stay one step ahead of your twitter-addicted employees. Create a hashtag for the party and invite everyone to post fun photos that meet criteria you have outlined in advance of the event. Use social media to portray your company positively, instead of tearing your hair out when you see Dave’s Instagram pic (you know the one) pop up on BuzzFeed.

  10. Ignoring the Employees
    This party is meant for your employees, right? So ask them what they want. Send out a quick survey to get a sense of what timing is preferable, which foods people like, etc. Consider creating a small committee of co-workers to give suggestions and help plan. Employees should feel like they have some say in the night’s festivities.

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