What to do about the holidays?

Dear Ken Keller,

I am probably like a lot of owners—no matter what I do at my company about the holiday season, someone ends up being upset. We’ve tried many things through the years to have some sort of celebration and I am ready to give up. What do other company owners do?

—-Bob F.


Dear Bob,

You’ve asked a great question. There are as many different ways to celebrate the holidays in a business as there are companies in business.

You might want to use three words when thinking about the company party: appropriate, authentic, and accepting.

By appropriate, it is probably best to start by determining what is inappropriate. If you had a bad year financially and did not provide raises or bonuses, or maybe you had to let people go for financial reasons, spending money on a holiday party would be considered insensitive and self-serving.

The point is, by determining what you don’t want it is easier to determine what you do want.

Second, the party needs to be authentic. The event needs to be real; it should be in sync with your company values. You may have to coach your management team about how this party puts them in the spotlight by how they dress and act.

Third, imagine your biggest introvert, the shiest employee, the newest hire, and the temp who showed up that morning for a short term assignment at your company. Will they feel welcome and accepted by others at this event? Make it the mission of everyone who attends to be open, and welcoming to all.

Finally, at some point during the party you will be expected to say a few words. You will be in the spotlight. Everything you say will be heard by each person in the room, and it will be remembered. Take this opportunity to be polite, be specific and be short in your comments.

I cannot tell you how many CEOs, Presidents and Business Owners speak off the cuff, without thinking, without a script or notes, without having practiced one iota and ended up ruining their reputation and destroying the goodwill they had established as a leader because they did not step up to the moment.

Company holiday parties are not about the party. These are events where reputations are most easily lost. Make sure you improve yours at this critical time.

Dear Ken Keller

I’d like to start 2016 on a high note from the first day back after the holidays. What can I do to create a positive momentum?

—-Susan S.

Dear Susan,

Between Christmas and New Years, spend the time and money to paint walls, replace ceiling tiles, replace or clean the carpets, wash the windows, bring in plants, hang new artwork and rearrange the furniture. Hang banners over the employee entrances with a warm welcome to 2016.

You want to start with a pattern interrupt and tap into the usual excitement that the start of a New Year brings. Gather your employees that first morning back with some special food and specialty beverages and give a short welcome back talk, focusing on how things will be different in the New Year. That afternoon, communicate your goals for the year and most important, make it a priority to follow through at every opportunity all year long.