Every year, the winter holidays bring joy and excitement to everyone — except business leaders, who worry endlessly about how to celebrate without offending or overspending. Business leaders need to consider how they will satisfy clients, customers, investors, partners and, most important of all, employees during this special time of year, and doing so safely and sufficiently isn’t easy.
However, it is imperative — and it is possible. Here’s how to have a holly, jolly and business-smart winter holiday.
Make a List, Check It Twice
Business leaders must function like Santa Claus, but instead of dividing everyone by how they behaved during the year, they should automatically put everyone on the “nice” list — then divide that list up into who gets what for the holiday season. There should be at least three categories:
People who get cards. This first group comprises people who aren’t particularly important to the company, people who should feel seen and appreciated during this time of year but who don’t do anything special to ensure the company thrives. In general, business holiday cards should be sent out to smaller clients as well as smaller suppliers and business partners. Each card should have a small personal message thanking the person or company and wishing them well.
People who get gifts. Business gifts don’t need to be intensely personal or lavishly costly, like the gifts people give their loved ones, but they should have some value. Often, it is a good idea to give something that several people can share, like a nice bottle of alcohol ora gourmet food basket. Because gifts constitute a much larger expense than cards, it is best to give them sparingly — only to major clients or key department heads.
People who get invitations. All businesses should host some kind of holiday get-together, but the point of this event isn’t necessarily one holiday or another — rather, its goal should be to celebrate employees’ hard work and commitment. As a result, all employees should receive invites to the holiday shindig, to include interns. The scope of the party is largely up to business leaders, but it should be big enough to make employees feel properly appreciated.
Be Inclusive and Respectful
Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and even amongst those who do, the holiday doesn’t mean the same thing or look the same way. Just as business leaders would do well to use inclusive language when it comes to age, gender and sexual orientation, it is wise to be respectful of everyone’s holiday traditions and religious beliefs at this time of year. Here are a few tips and tricks for demonstrating respect and inclusivity with regards to the holidays:
Don’t use the names of specific holidays. There are too many to list; instead, use a generic term, like “the winter holidays” or “the festive season.”
Choose a seasonal theme, not a holiday theme. Decorating with red and green will alienate some employees and office guests, and so will setting up menorahs. Steer clear of any iconography that points to a specific holiday, and opt for secular images like snowflakes.
Don’t force people to participate. Some people don’t celebrate the holidays for personal or religious reasons. Participation in holiday activities, like parties or gift exchanges, should not be mandatory or have any impact on job performance.
Have Rules for Holiday Fetes
While holiday activities should be a time for employees to let loose, no one should be allowed to get too loose. Even if the party takes place outside of normal work hours, it remains a work-related event, and as such, workers should be expected to uphold the existing corporate culture and employment brand. It’s wise to set some rules for all holiday events to ensure behavior doesn’t get out of hand; a few good ideas include:
- Dress appropriately. Casual attire might be acceptable, but no one should show up in a scintillating Santa outfit or pull a Meredith.
- Drink appropriately. Alcohol and the holidays often go hand-in-hand, but if an event does get boozy, it might be wise to establish a drink maximum to prevent unwanted behavior.
- Don’t bring just anyone. Some office parties should have strict guest lists, especially if there are exclusive gifts or limited food and beverage. If significant others are invited, invitations should be clear on who counts as an SO.
The winter holidays should be fun, not stressful. By reducing the likelihood of offense, even business leaders should be able to let their hair down and celebrate the season.