The office Christmas party—as it was once known—has a long and storied past. According to Jake Rossen in a Mental Floss article, the holiday party dates back to the Great Depression and was intended to lift the spirits of workers who did not have the funds for their own parties.  Office parties were once raucous affairs that gave employees and bosses a chance to escape from the formal roles they held in the office. Over time, the entry of women into the workplace and management roles has pushed legal and human resources departments to put the kibosh on total bacchanalias.  While a previous blog discussed keeping the OFFICE in the office holiday party, this blog will focus on the corporate benefits of the holiday party.  The holiday party helps to reinforce company culture, show appreciation to employees, build relationships between employees and management, and help to boost morale, engagement, and motivation of employees.

The holiday party is representative of the culture of the company. defines company culture as “a blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals, and myths all companies develop over time.”  Simply stated, culture is the personality or reputation of an organization, and includes adjectives such as formal, casual, hardworking, caring, factory-like, etc.  Certain personality types are attracted to and succeed in certain environments. The culture is created and evolves on a daily basis and can be reinforced, decreased or improved at the holiday party.  The holiday party should represent the corporate culture, according to the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness (CMOE), “Are you trying to create a more formal, traditional culture? Plan a high-class party. Maybe make it a black-tie affair. If your company culture is really laid back, choose a theme that reflects that casual nature.”

The holiday party is a great way to celebrate the successes of individual employees, teams, and the company. The holiday party needs to be seen as a genuine expression that the company cares about employees and acknowledges their contribution to the organization.  The organization needs to make sure that everyone feels appreciated and no one feels left out. Moreover, employees know the state of the organization and its financial performance. The party needs to be commensurate with the situation; a glitzy party in a year when layoffs occurred, is not appropriate.  Instead, a low-key event can show employees that they are appreciated and demonstrate a positive resolve for the year to come. 

Regardless of company size, we tend to interact with a certain group of coworkers with whom we work the closest. The holiday party gives everyone a chance to mingle with workers from other departments or teams, which unifies the company and better positions people to work together successfully in the future.  It also gives employees to the chance to mingle with management in a more relaxed environment.

Company events are great for boosting company morale and increasing positive feelings about the organization.  When morale is high, employees tend to be more motivated and productive. Company parties help people to relax and become refreshed and rejuvenated.  A pep talk at the party can help workers to reconnect with the company vision and feel validated about the importance of the role they play.

Have a great holiday season and start thinking about success in 2020.

This blog post originally appeared on December 19, 2018.