The “office Christmas party”

party_timeThis is the season of the “party” at work. So, what kind of an event will your organization hold? And, what stories will follow? It can be a tricky time. Some planning now will make sure that not only are the stories g-rated, but that everyone is safe and still employed after the event. And, make no mistake – events with “work people” are work parties, are public events. Think now about how you will approach work events different from your personal events.

The pictures: I was a first year high school teacher, stopping by a cast party at a student’s home. Yes, I had another teacher with me. And, yes, we stayed only a few minutes. During that very brief visit to say “great job,” I had my first “red cup” experience. Students were taking pictures and one kid said “would you hold this for me?” so that they could get into the picture. I looked at them, looked at the “red cup” and that funny feeling hit. I replied, while not touching the cup, “why don’t you put it on that bookshelf?” The students all started laughing. Yep, the planned picture was going to be of me, the non-drinker, holding a cup with unknown contents, around students in a private home. A picture like that could have cost me a great deal.

In this day, we can be photographed at any time. So pay special attention during the holidays to make sure that your appearance and activities reflect your core beliefs. It is impossible to not have a picture taken that makes you look bad. But, you don’t have to set yourself up for it. If you do drink, think about it; do you want to be holding a wine glass in the group photos. And, I understand not wanting to have lots of pictures taken of you. But, if you fight it, the pictures they take will be worse than the ones you allow to be taken. I promise, you will live through it.

The attire: This issue impacts women more than it does men. For parties with family and friends, we have many more options with our attire. But, at work events, not so much. I still cringe about the work party we attended where a woman came dressed as an elf. That theme wasn’t terrible in itself, but the costume was too small, too sexy and too scary. It was not an “I am the best employee for the promotion” ensemble. When in doubt, conservative is better. But, no need to dress like a Pilgrim either. Enjoy the theme. Wear that ugly Christmas sweater or that silly (but, still appropriate) t-shirt. Be social.

The cost: For leaders, this is an important issue. Are you using business funds to underwrite the event? If so, make sure that the expenses reflect your organizational priorities. A lavish party (although rare these days) tells your workers that costs don’t matter. Or are you “requiring” employees to pay their way into the event? Keep the costs down. Don’t make me have to give up something this holiday season just so that I can attend the “voluntary” (right!) business event. And, please don’t make me pay for something that is in conflict with my beliefs. As a non-drinker, I don’t want to pay for an “open bar.” Last, consider safety. Are all of your team members and their guests ready to go home safely?

The behavior: Every word we speak, every action we take, every email we send is a reflection of who we are and what we believe. Gossip and you are a gossip. Cheat and you are a cheater. Lie and you are a liar. Any event, including a work Christmas party, tells who we are. No excuses.

Your faith: While leading an organization in the federal government, I started all of our holiday meals with prayer. I made it simple, saying something like, “In my tradition, we give thanks. Would it be all right if I gave thanks now?” I never had a staff member say no. But, I also never said anything that would offend others. My prayer was generic, short, and included a thank you for those who are serving in our military away and at home. It was a simple prayer of thanksgiving and I did not use it as a time to encourage others to join my faith. The strategy worked for me.

So, have a great time! Doing a little planning now will let you relax and enjoy a marvelous office party!

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

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