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RAMSEY: Are you ready to plan the holiday office party?

To borrow a line from the familiar song, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go.”

The first week of the month I happened on a Salvation Army bell ringer in front of the grocery store. Strategically placed at the entrance were the Rosemary Christmas trees. No Poinsettias yet, thank goodness. It’s still Mum season.

Once inside I was greeted by rows of holiday wrapping paper, ribbon of all colors and gift items of every description. Did I mention the Christmas trees laden with a wide variety of ornaments, ready for purchase? Does this strike you as a little early? After all we haven’t even had our Thanksgiving turkey.

While I am a traditionalist and think we ought to wait until after Thanksgiving before we jump to Christmas bells and trees, I do believe this is the time when holiday planning begins.

If you have read my previous articles, you are aware that by now you should already have purchased your holiday greeting cards, updated your mailing list and started addressing — or coerced someone else into addressing — the envelopes by hand.

 

Deck the walls

Now you need to begin planning the office party so that when December rolls around, you will know how your team wants to celebrate.

Gather your staff together and mutually agree on what color theme you would like for your office decorations. Will it be traditional red and green? Starbucks has already gone red for this year.

Maybe your team would like to deck the walls with more unusual holiday colors like silver and gold? Once you decide, start gathering what you need.

Take time to decorate the office tree with your colleagues. Get everyone involved. This provides an opportunity for people to work together on a fun project — not that their jobs aren’t fun — and to get to know each other on another level.

 

Plan the party

No later than December 1 someone needs to be designated as the party planner.

What does this person do? He or she should solicit ideas from the team about the kind of party they would like. All too often the boss or his admin takes that responsibility and tells everyone else when, where and how they will celebrate.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get input from the group?

Should it be an after-hours event? Should it be held off site or on? Should it be over lunch or at the end of the work day? Everyone is going to have an opinion, so be prepared. People will enjoy it more if they have had input.

Keep in mind that you can’t please all the people all the time, but you can please some of the people some of the time.

Do you plan to have activities and games? If so, solicit ideas from the group. Who knows what fun things they will come up with? On the other hand they might not want to play games at all, but those seemingly silly activities can serve as valuable ice-breakers and team-builders.

 

Gather the gifts

This is a key piece of your planning. Survey the team about how they would like to handle gifts. Does everyone need to give something to each member of the group? Would people prefer something like a Secret Santa where you draw the name of one co-worker for whom you anonymously buy a present?

Would the group like a Yankee Swap? Without going into too much detail, this is where each person buys one gift within a certain price range that all have agreed upon. At game time everyone draws a number, which is the order to follow in selecting a gift from the pile. A lot of swapping goes on until all gifts have been opened.

Maybe the group does not want to exchange gifts. For many people on a tight budget, this added expense during the holidays can be a hardship. Consider special circumstances. And always, always set a limit on how much to spend for these employee exchanges.

With thoughtful planning a good time and a happy holiday will be had by all.

 

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products.

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