The company party has a reputation for being either a sad gathering of people making boring small talk around the punch and cookies or a night of overindulgence when Bob from accounting earns an unsavory nickname.
The hardest part of the company party for you, the employer, is striking a balance between these two extremes. You want your team to relax and have a good time, but not such a good time that no one will be able to look each other in the face again.
Ultimately, the point of a company party is to boost morale, motivate employees, celebrate big wins, and show your appreciation. It can also be an opportunity for new team members to get to know one another.
To accomplish all these things and ensure your party is a celebration that even Questlove would like to attend, keep these three things in mind:
1. Plan Activities That Develop Camaraderie
The most entertaining activities for work gatherings are those that get everyone involved. Find a unique activity that allows your team to master new skills together, like a cooking class or ice skating. By taking the focus off forced conversations and placing it on an activity, awkwardness dissipates into friendly competition and camaraderie.
A shared activity also dissolves status differences between colleagues. As employees and leaders work side by side to perfect a scrumptious veal piccata, the fact that one of them determines everyone's year-end bonuses fades into the background.
At my company, parties never follow the same structure. If your company is small, a fun game like "People Trivia" is a perfect icebreaker to get people talking. Plus, the outrageous personal facts will keep people laughing long after the party.
2. Choose the Right Time and Place
Though it seems like the time to party, the weekend might not be the best time for your work function. Remember when Bob had a little too much to drink and got funky to Rick James' "Super Freak" last year?
Imagine if he had needed to be up early the next morning. Having your party toward the beginning of the week deters employees from overindulging and keeps them from missing out on weekend family time.
Some activities dictate the venue, but if not, look for a large, open space like a restaurant, sports bar, or bowling alley. Many restaurants have separate function areas, or you can reserve an entire small restaurant for your group. Buffet-style restaurants work best for larger companies with diverse palates.
3. Put Your Appreciation Into Words
The whole purpose of the company party is to show your appreciation for your amazing team. But perhaps you feel like putting this appreciation into words instead of just shoving booze and shrimp cocktails in front of them.
This is a fair and brave thing to do, but it's important to keep it light and concise. Humor is great, but avoid poking fun at employees or making jokes about company missteps that could inadvertently single out certain people. Remember, Bob is still sensitive about that huge accounting error (for which he may or may not have been responsible). Keep it positive and sincere, and remember that it's about making your team feel good.
As with everything in life, your company party is all about balance. You want everyone to have a good time--just not too much. Pick a fun activity (and have the party on a Monday), and Bob might just remember it this year.