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How to Plan an Office Party When You Are Not Giving Out Bonuses

Holiday Office Party Planning Tips to Keep Your Employees Happy

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If you have given out holiday bonuses in the past and your employees have come to expect them, do not make the mistake of overspending on a holiday party as a substitute for bonuses.

Even if your company can afford a fabulous Christmas party, if you are not giving out bonuses, your employees are likely to resent extravagant party expenses and see it as money coming out of their own (bonus) pockets.

Here are some office party planning tips to keep your employees from becoming disgruntled if they are not getting cash bonuses this year.

Parties Are Not Substitutes for Bonuses

No cash-poor, hardworking employee is going to be grateful for a Christmas party instead of a bonus. Every drink, morsel, and decoration can represent money spent that employees would rather have than a party.

Many employees do not even attend holiday office parties so they can feel like they received nothing at all.

If you decide to have an office party instead of giving bonuses promote the party as way of acknowledging appreciation for the contributions of employees during the past year - not as a substitute for bonuses. Instead, send out an announcement well in advance - and separate from any party announcements - that your company will not be giving out bonuses this year.

Do not relate the party to any communications about bonuses. As soon as you connect the two, employees will feel short changed.

Focus on the Future, Not The Past

It is fine to state your company cannot afford bonuses this year due to the economy, but never tell employees how lucky they are to even have a job.

Instead of focusing on "a year in review" lamenting losses and downsizing operations, use the party as a positive platform to usher in a new, more lucrative year. Talk about hopeful things, new prospects for growth, and a brighter future. Focusing on past hardships will only remind your employees of all the reasons why they are not getting bonuses.

Get Employees Involved

Rather than trying to make up for a lack of bonuses with a lavish Christmas party, have a smaller scale party. Your goal is to get employees excited about the party itself and their minds off the fact they are not getting a bonus. Over-the-top spending on an office party sends you employees the message that you had excess cash they did not get.

  • Have Employees Bring Food: Break from traditions and have employees bring some of the food. Make it fun and offer a contest for best cookie recipe or dip. If you cannot offer a prize, give the winner an afternoon off or extra paid vacation day.
  • Entertainment: Invite local church or youth groups to sing or perform - many will do so for free. Even better, if you have musical employees, invite them to perform live music or offer a karaoke machine. Employees will get a bigger kick out of seeing their coworker's band perform than they will if you hire a professional DJ.
  • Make it Family-Friendly: Let families bring the children this year. Many office parties traditionally exclude children. Struggling families may appreciate being allowed to bring their children to your Christmas party.

    Offer a few holiday activities for kids, like a coloring, cookie decorating, or ornament table so they will have something to take home with them.

Acknowledging that your employees have lives outside the work place by including their families is a great way to help them feel better about your business.

Booze or no Booze?

It is generally better to keep office parties alcohol free. But if you do allow alcoholic beverages, use an outside service and have a cash bar. If your business cannot afford bonuses, offering an open bar to employees is not a good idea.

To avoid legal exposure, have a professional bar tender prepare and serve drinks - do not have the company purchase or serve alcohol to employees and never ask or allow employees to bring their own beer, wine, or liquor.

People who have to pay for their own alcohol may drink more responsibly. All it takes is one jerk who has had too much to drink to make others feel uncomfortable.

The Bottom Line

The more you involve your employees the more they will appreciate an office party. If the party really is for their benefit, cater to them, not to management.

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