I used to work for a company that had a giant Holiday Party. The company would rent out San Francisco’s City Hall, have a professional photographer, a sushi bar, and all the vodka tonics you could (or couldn’t) handle. It was a huge affair. And it was a ton of fun. With employees who consistenly went above and beyond for the company, the Holiday Party was nice “Thank You.”
For the first couple of years as a working mom, the annual holiday party was the only “Date Night” my spouse and I had for the entire year. Our son would stay with a Grandparent and we would stay out all night… And pretend, just a little, that we were young, unattached, and child-free. That one night out in the city was enought to sustain me for months of grueling juggling at home and at the office.
Of course, when the company hosted these parties, the economic outlook of the company and the country was in a totally different place. People hadn’t lost their homes or their retirement savings. Employees hadn’t been told they are getting laid off two weeks before Christmas. Companies weren’t forecasting downturns and staff reductions.
Regardless of the current economic situation, I doubt my current company would ever throw the tens of thousands employees a Holiday Party. I’ll be lucky if I get free lunch paid for by my manager. This is a no-frills company. If they aren’t going to have real cream available in the breakroom, I doubt they’d swing for a extravagant party. And that’s ok. I don’t need the holiday party the way I did in the past. I’m not the same working mom now as I was then. Date nights, although still rare in my marriage, aren’t reliant on the companies economic outlook. And an occassional Moms Night Out can lift my spirits for weeks on end.
Lately, I’ve heard many friends and colleagues discuss how their companies have canceled the holiday party this year. Some managers are paying out of their own pocket for a team lunch or dinner. My spouse’s department actually asked employees to pay $50 to have a party during the same week the company announced that it was reducing salaries by 10% to avoid lay-offs.
Today, a party of these epic proportions just seems like a waste of money. Still, companies need to find a way to say “Thanks” to their employees. It doesn’t have to be with sushi bars and vodka tonics. Saying “I appreciate your contributions to this company” doesn’t have to cost a thing. I wish more companies remembered that it isn’t about the party. It’s about the recognition of our labor.
It’s the recognition that can sustain our “worker-bee” spirits and motivate us to continue to go above and beyond.