How Does Your Organization Celebrate the Holidays?

Image: How Does Your Organization Celebrate the Holidays?

Celebrating the Holidays at Work

Many years ago it was pretty simple. The holiday season meant having a having a party for all employees and likely their spouses. These parties often took place at restaurants, hotels or convention centers and everyone knew what to expect. However, these days, trends have changed. In fact, a lot of organizations don’t have a holiday party at all anymore.

There are a few reasons why traditional holiday parties are becoming less and less frequent.

One reason is the cost. In today’s economic climate, having a lavish or expensive holiday party simply isn’t possible. Even for organizations that are doing well financially, the annual year-end blowout is often toned down or cancelled. This is may be because organizations feel that it is more fiscally responsible to dedicate funds elsewhere.

Another reason for the decline in these parties is changing demographics. It used to be assumed that the majority of employees celebrated Christmas and that those who didn’t would still join in on the celebrations regardless in order to be part of the team. However, today, this isn’t the case. Many people celebrate other holidays during this time of year and some celebrate nothing at all. Some leaders find that this makes it challenging to plan an appropriate party and therefore may forgo an event all together.

Holiday parties also come with their share of risk. Some organizations stopped hosting such events due to excessive alcohol consumption, team members behaving badly and even sexual harassment issues. These are obviously very serious situations and, thus, many organizations consider it too risky to host a company party.

Finally, many work holiday parties are no longer a priority because the holiday season is incredibly busy. A lot of people find it difficult, stressful, or annoying to attend their organization’s holiday party when they have so many family and social commitments. This leads to many of them being cancelled due to lack of interest or postponing the party until the New Year.

Generational Differences

Organizations also take into account generational differences when it comes to holiday celebrations. It can no longer be assumed that employees will be in a serious relationship and therefore may not bring a spouse or partner to an event.  Single Millennials may desire a much different type of party than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers who wish to have their significant other attend. It can seem “unfair” to some who are single if the organization’s invites (and pays for) spouses while they don’t receive anything “extra.” Conversely, those who are married may get upset if their spouses are not invited to an event.

Millennials are also less likely to view the traditional party as a “reward”. However, some Baby Boomers be disappointed if what they have come to expect from a holiday party is cancelled. Balancing these differing viewpoints requires skill and creativity.

Alternatives to the Traditional Holiday Party


Despite the challenges of hosting a holiday party, there are benefits to celebrating as a team. The biggest benefit is boosting morale. Team members who socialize with one another are more likely to collaborate well at work and tend to enjoy their jobs more. Millennials especially wish to socialize at the workplace, so having a holiday party is a good way to make this possible.

A holiday party also acts as a signal to let employees know that all is well within the organization. If leaders announce that there will be no holiday party this year, people may start to worry about the financial status of the organization.

However, many organizations are looking for ways to celebrate that aren’t necessarily a traditional party.

One way to celebrate the season that avoids many of the typical issues with workplace holiday parties is to hold an event at the office, rather than renting out a hotel, restaurant or event space. There are many advantages to this. First of all, this strategy keeps costs down. In addition, these events can happen during a slower period (so you can have the party during typical work hours) or immediately after the workday ends. This will increase attendance and make it easier for everyone to make it to the celebration.

A party at the office also reduces the amount of alcohol that is consumed. Plus, these events can easily be limited to employees only. Finally, having the party in the workplace leads to a more casual gathering, which can make people feel more comfortable. Many organizations hold a potluck instead of a catered affair. Not only does this reduce costs, but it encourages people to bring food and drinks from different cultures, which makes the event more inclusive and celebratory of other special holidays that coincide during the traditional Christmas season.

At many organizations where they don’t have a large company party, individual departments will host small potluck events in the office in order to unwind and allow team members a chance to socialize.

As mentioned, some organizations choose to hold their parties in January rather than December. This is often a less hectic time for everyone, so it is easier for people to attend. It also turns the event into a New Year’s Party rather than a “holiday party,” which can be more inclusive.

Finally, it’s a good idea to think of ways to celebrate and socialize as a team outside of the traditional party. Participate in a charity event together, attend a sporting event or concert as a team, or celebrate with an external partner or stakeholder group.  Also planning smaller events throughout the year that bring the team together such as a summer barbecue or attend a team building event offsite can build team collaboration and culture of fun. This can excite younger employees who do not want to have a “stuffy” and traditional party while still giving everyone a chance to celebrate and socialize.

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.

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