Message to Managers: Make Your Company Holiday Party

A Workplace Builder – Not a Career Breaker


White Plains, N.Y. – December 10, 2002 – Company holiday parties offer managers a chance to reward loyalty and performance—and boost morale. But if that party includes all levels of the organization, it has the potential to compromise or even jeopardize a manager’s position and authority, according to prominent management coach and author Stephen Kohn.


Managers should consider the rules when attending holiday parties:

  1. Plan an exit strategy. All managers should have a strategy to leave a holiday party when necessary, and the higher the level of executive authority, the shorter the stay should be.  “Very senior executives should make their rounds early, ask for a moment when they can get everyone’s attention and then wish them a good and safe time at the party, and wish them and their families a happy holiday,” says Stephen Kohn, president of Work & People Solutions. “Then make an early exit.”
  2. Maintain appropriate boundaries of authority.  Company holiday parties are work-related, so managers need to see them as such—while at the party, they are still at work.  “It is not a time to let their hair down and behave in a way that is not consistent with how they would behave during the workday,” says O’Connell, principal and senior partner of Work & People Solutions.  O’Connell encourages managers to avoid any inappropriate physical contact with others, especially those of the opposite sex and under one’s authority, at the party.  Also, managers should be wary of being drawn into making any inappropriate remarks, including sexual or derogatory remarks.
  3. Limit your own alcohol consumption.  Alcohol can contribute to poor judgment in interactions with others within the company. If you’re a manager, have a plan to moderate your alcohol consumption and not exceed this self-imposed limit.
  4. Beware of alcohol consumption in others. “The likelihood of problems at holiday parties increases in proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed,” Kohn says.  “Since others at the party may have too much alcohol, managers should have their radar on for such individuals and find ways to avoid extensive interactions with them,” Kohn adds. If and when this becomes impossible, the manager should gracefully leave the party.”
  1. Set goals for improving human relations/interpersonal relations with co-workers or staff.  The informal environment of the holiday party offers managers an opportunity to interact with people in a social setting and improve their communication/relations with others.  “Managers may want to make a mental note of the persons they want to connect with at the party and find ways to create these interactions,” O’Connell says. “They may also want to meet and greet all their direct reports, in order to wish them a happy holiday and interact with their significant others. These interactions can be valuable means of creating stronger human relations with your direct reports.”


Work & People Solutions is a White Plains, N.Y.-based consulting firm that develops human relations skills in managers for a wide variety of organizations. The firms principal, Stephen Kohn, is author of The People Management Formula: Six Indispensable Human Relations Practices Used by Bosses Everyone Admires Most, a simple, straightforward training model designed to help managers improve crucial interpersonal aspects of leadership.