How were your work holiday-related parties? Better than last year? Were they a lot of fun? How was the food?
So December rolls around and everyone’s in that frantic, “Oh man, I have to make sure to be grateful for everyone and do some of the hip calculations comparing relationships to social norms to decide who gets a gift” mode. And you, as a boss, decide to throw a party. And you’ve got four ways this can go:
- You’ve got the formal, awkward, and high-strung party where everyone is afraid to say the wrong thing.
- You’ve got the ostensibly laid-back party where you’re encouraged to have fun, but you’re all still formally just work associates so saying the wrong thing will get a bunch of people awkwardly taking sips of their drinks.
- You’ve got the laid-back party where everyone’s actually having fun and not smiling just because it’s good decorum to please your boss when they’re saying or doing something (these can be both formal or more like a good Friday night with the friends, just as long as the anxiety stays outside).
- Or the ones that don’t happen at all.
Ever notice that a lot of these “workplace building” activities and efforts (your parties and inner company events and so on) only shine around when the calendars say so? Thanksgiving? Throw some pumpkin stickers on that wall. Store bought pumpkin pie and let’s get ready to put up a tree real quick for the upcoming holiday and New Year. You know what’d be fun? Having the entire team decorate it. Seems like we only think about doing these employee-centric and community fostering activities because a calendar told us to. Would you if it didn’t?
Afterwards everyone just kind of goes back to work. That’s when people start loathing your holiday parties (that they’re low key obligated to go to, even though they’re wink really not wink), it’s sort of like spending a dinner with those in-laws that fake smile at you because they have to, not because they want to.
So, how can you foster a spirit of positive energy to make sure your company events have some kind of positive effect? Well, you can’t really fix that collective “because you have to” attitude. If there aren’t any genuine feelings there, the only real way to fix it is to FIND those genuine feelings. Or build them. So, as a boss, how can you make sure that people have a genuine sense of community at your company activities?
- Prove that you’re not doing it out of necessity by showing appreciation throughout the year. Throw them a mid-August party. Not even a party, just do a little something where you all go out together. At Pulse Group, we throw impromptu BBQs and try to grab team lunches often.
- Do events outside of work (Please don’t go bowling, nobody ever wants to go bowling, you’re not being creative and spunky), have a team lunch at least, or order in some of those surprisingly cheap catering services that are offered by every chain restaurant ever now. And no, no. No. Your casual Friday-esque ideas aren’t building company morale or anything. They’re dumb and overused, and nobody really wants to do them, even if they participate because you’re the boss (Nobody. Ever. Wants. To. Go. Bowling.). Don’t think of something because you have to, think of something that they’ll actually enjoy because you want to. If you don’t want to, don’t try. You won’t get far. Don’t show appreciation just because a calendar tells you to, if you do then A) You’re not appreciative of anything, and B) Everyone knows it.
- Make your employees feel like they are really part of a team. Do the old listening thing and hearing them out and stuff like that. Just read a bunch of how-to Dale Carnegie wannabe charisma books, I’m not about to go into how to treat your employees here. But instead of reading them, and going, “Hmm, this is really good advice, I should do this,” and then not doing it, try actually putting some of that into practice. If you aren’t even treating your employees like people instead of just like resources you won’t be able to throw them a decent anything party. People want to go have fun with people that are fun. Work is work, but a work party better not be a work anything. It is a party, a Christmas party or a mid-August party, that just happens to consist of your employees and associates.
- Frame the activities as informal by being spontaneous with them. Make some feel like they’re a little looser by not setting a date a month in advance. Go into the office one day, mid-August or mid-September or otherwise, and see who wants to go on a company hike tomorrow, or something of that nature. And then on that hike, treat them like your friends, build rapport, and a relationship with them. This is more of a viewpoint thing, don’t just treat them like resources, treat them like people like yourself. Treat them in informal interactions like you would if they were your boss. Go out of your way to remember things about them, their likes and dislikes, and have each birthday on your calendar. Respect them, and… right remember those charisma books? Yeah, again, just actually follow the chapter headers in those.
Looking back at it, it seems like the main takeaway from all of this is just to be genuine throughout the year, not just in December. Spread the holiday cheer throughout the entire year, not just on those few weeks when your calendar reminds you to. And I think that’s the title of the post, so that’s where I’m also going to end it.