I love a good excuse to be silly. My wife and I like to make up songs about our poodle. My colleagues and I are constantly running long on our daily huddles because we riff on something that comes up in conversation. Sure, it kills a few minutes, but it's a great way to start the day and helps keep everyone loose. That's part of why I love celebrating National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day on the third Friday in December.
Still, why is this Jew suggesting you celebrate Christmas sweaters? OK, you can call them "holiday" or "winter" sweaters if you must. But this celebration isn't about religion -- it's about your company's culture. The holidays are stressful, personally and professionally. At home, you have to decorate the house, buy gifts for loved ones (and perhaps work-appropriate gifts for colleagues), prepare for family invasions, and make your year-end charity donations. At work, there's an inevitable year-end time crunch as you try to close deals, finish projects, and meet pressing deadlines. If you as a leader can feel the stress, you can bet your employees feel it too. Part of your job as a leader is to keep your team focused, motivated, and productive. A well-timed party, or even a short break in the day, can accomplish just that.
Here's why a fun ugly Christmas sweater party is just what the office doctor ordered this time of year:
1. It's humanizing
Sometimes as the end of the year is approaching, the leader has to be the heavy. You know your employees want to enjoy the season, take advantage of the shopping deals, and spend time with family and friends. But you also know that if you don't get this deal closed now, your potential business partner is going to forget about the deal in the haze of all the same holiday activities. You feel like a bad guy cracking the whip, but certain things simply have to get done now, or else the holidays will be a bit less bright next year. By organizing and throwing an ugly Christmas sweater party, you'll be reminding your team that you're not just a taskmaster -- you're fun to be around, even when it's at work.
2. It grows employee bonds
There's something about a shared laugh that instantly builds camaraderie between people. Have no doubt that an ugly Christmas sweater party will indeed induce plenty of laughs! Doing something silly -- maybe even a little humiliating -- together makes you feel like you're in other things together too, like accomplishing a work goal. As a leader, it's important to find ways to build the relationships among employees so they feel part of a vibrant, supportive team. This is an easy way to team build and have fun!
3. It builds trust
Leaders also need to develop in their employees the sense that their bosses are in it with them. Just as a shared experience builds a relationship between employees, it can build trust between leaders and employees. When your employees see you in a Christmas sweater just as hilariously ugly as theirs -- maybe even more so -- they'll see that you're just as committed as they are, and you're willing to get your hands dirty to achieve a goal. It's a fun way to remind your colleagues that you really are a team with members who can trust in each other.
4. It emphasizes culture
Honestly, who wouldn't want to work in an office that had a tradition as fun as an annual ugly Christmas sweater party? It's a great way to burn off some of the steam that builds up during the year-end and holiday scrambles. You could also do fun activities during the party, like announce the winner of a holiday sales contest, or play pin the star on the tree, or have a contest for the worst sweater. All of these things remind employees that work is a place where their can let their creativity shine, and that hard work has rewards.