November 28, 2016

Company Holiday Parties: Why They’re Not Worth It and What to do Instead


Company holiday parties are infamous for their awkward moments, drunken regrets, and social faux pas. And yet, despite the less-than-sparkling reputation, most companies still host holiday parties every year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Proponents of company holiday parties argue that they’re a great opportunity for employers to show their appreciation of their employees, encourage team bonding, create more unity between departments, and reinforce the company culture. Those against the parties argue that company holiday parties are dreaded by the majority, don’t effectively build teams, and infringe on employees’ free time during the holidays.

Here is why company holiday parties are a bad idea – and what to do instead:

Forced Socialization

“Most people hate your holiday party,” writes Patty Azzarello, founder and CEO of Azzarello Group.

For starters, not all of your employees are partiers: “About half of your employees are introverts, and forced socialization is not pleasant for them,” Azzarello writes. “So no matter what type of party you have, the introvert segment of your employee base will never see this as a perk. It is just an additional, energy-draining social requirement.”

As for your extraverted employees, an after-hours company holiday party likely cuts into their already busy social calendars.

If you do decide to have a holiday party, have it during the week and during work hours.

“What you are basically saying by having your holiday celebration on the weekend is that, ‘It’s not enough for me to tell you what to do during the work week. I also need you to demonstrate your loyalty to me by giving up weekend time during the busiest time of the year in your personal life,'” Azzarello writes.

You Can’t Demand Fun

But even if you sacrifice valuable work hours for a holiday party, is it worth it?

One of the main hopes employers have for company holiday parties is that they will create shared fun between employees, thereby fostering workplace friendships.

Smile“While workplace fun can increase productivity and boost office morale, the benefits stem from spontaneous amusement, like a harmless prank or an employee-led contest,” writes Amy Morin, lecturer at Northeastern University. “Telling people when to have fun – and how to do it – instills more dread than cheer.”

Just as company holiday parties are unlikely to build friendships within a team, they’re unlikely to bring different departments closer together.

“The larger your organization, the less likely employees are to mingle with one another,” Morin writes.

Teams are more likely to cluster together throughout the party, leaving departmental divisions intact.

Better Ways to Spend the Holidays

While company holiday parties may not be worth the time and expense, there are better ways to use the holiday season to promote team-building.

For example, Konnect Public Relations skips the holiday party and takes its 30 employees on a group trip.

“Holding an obligatory party, where people often drink too much and have no decent memories, was not for us,” Konnect CEO Sabrina Gault told Fast Company. “A trip provided a unique experience for the employees to be together outside the office and bond in a deeper way. By taking the party elsewhere, it allows people to get out of their element and actually let go and have fun and create memories [that last] the entire year.”

If your goal is to thank your employees for their hard work, there are also alternatives that they will likely appreciate more.

“If your only motivation is to thank people, I humbly suggest you take the per-head budget for the party and just give people gift cards,” Azzarello writes. “If you really want to achieve your desired outcome, deliver the gift cards personally to each employee and thank them personally for something specific they did. Tell them how their effort helped you or the business this year.”

Don’t waste time and money on a company holiday party that won’t achieve its goals. Celebrate your employees and build your company culture with more effective alternatives that your employees will actually enjoy.

Danai Kadzere is a content marketer at Happie, a candidate sourcing and engagement software.

Read more in Employee Recognition

Danai Kadzere is a content marketer at Happie. She holds a B.A. in Human Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University. Before entering the world of recruiting and team management, she worked as a freelance writer and children's book author. Visit the Happie website at