Professionalism at work in the holiday season

Just as I was settling down on the train yesterday for a nice relaxed ride home, I overheard the lady next to me say to her travelling companion ‘Did you know Christmas Day is three weeks tomorrow?’  Talk about panic stations!  Am I ready – I am not!  Have I done anything about anything – I have not!  This has all the makings of a Christmas Eve whirlwind  but I have pulled this particular rabbit out a hat before so I am not overly worried.  Not just yet anyway! Organisations, however, need to be just a little bit more prepared and, in difficult times, will hopefully have been a bit inventive this year on the thorny question of  WHAT  TO  DO ABOUT THE  CHRISTMAS  PARTY.  An interesting subset of that discussion will also have revolved around bonuses or rewards for a year of effort and, hopefully, successes. 


We all hope that your organisation isn’t going into Scrooge mode and cancelling the festivities altogether.  We all need to mark the end of such a tough year with a little light relief, celebrating success and setting the tone for a relaxed start to the New Year.  You probably want to reduce the bill without creating a negative impact on the organisation but you also need to consider the effect of the festivities on the professional behaviour and expectations of staff.  Nobody wants the New Year to begin with recriminations!


  • Make a virtue of doing something different, don’t be apologetic that you can’t just throw money at the event
  • When arranging the date, make sure that you remember to consider all your employees, full-time, part-time, contractors and temps, also deciding on whether it is employees only or whether guests are to be invited
  • Don’t buy it in, create it, involve everyone in the effort, encouraging internal collaboration
  • Agree with staff when they may decorate workspaces, if they choose to, and that the decorations do not impede work flows
  • If the decorations are in customer facing areas make sure they are appropriate and inoffensive
  • Set a code of conduct for the office party, to ensure no nasty surprises

-  This avoids embarrassing incidents of all kinds caused by over-imbibing -  It ensures no one makes a spectacle of themselves -  It ensures everyone turns up sober the next day

  • Agree with staff that the workplace will be ‘dry’ during the festivities, except perhaps for a glass of sparkling wine (an acceptable alternative to Champagne if necessary) as a toast to successes past and future


  • If you had a formal dinner last year, perhaps arrange a finger buffet this time
  • If you had an evening event last year, why not move it to lunchtime

- This saves money for everyone by eliminating the need for ‘party’ clothing

- It offers the staff additional free time in the normal working day

- It removes the need to organise taxis, minibuses or accommodation, normally

necessary to make sure staff get home safely from an evening event

  • Add a staff awards presentation to your event

- recognise examples of effort over and above the norm

- recognise long service

- recognise significant events in the lives of members of staff, eg new babies, achieving

qualifications, etc

  • Be a little more generous with holiday leave dates.  You obviously need to ensure that business requirements are covered but this is another way to show your appreciation if more tangible rewards or bonuses are out of the question.

I am sure you have thought of other alternatives.  So, keeping the Finance Director happy could be very effective in having some positive knock on effects.

You will have kept costs down to a minimum

Your staff will feel appreciated

You will be a responsible employer and will not have encouraged anyone to make a spectacle of themselves for which apologies will be needed.

You will be ensuring that the organisation is energised for whatever the New Year is going to bring.

Hope it all goes swimmingly!