Holiday Presence

Holiday parties. Good experiences? Career-sinking activities? Reputation-ending comments? All too often, and with the help of alcohol, many otherwise-sane professionals have made toe-curling (theirs and everyone else’s) statements at holiday office get-togethers. Of course, these are augmented by the morning-after stories about inappropriate behavior, who said what to whom, and an embarrassing regaling of other activities (juicy fodder for many films and books).

Among the many traditions of the holiday party is a statement and toast made by the CEO or head of a department. This is an important moment. The speaker, the leader, can use this opportunity to improve morale – or further erode it.

For those of you slated to give a holiday address this year, consider these “dos” and “don’ts” guaranteed to generate a positive outcome and a happier staff:

DO Thank everyone for their work during the past year.

  • Don’t single out particular individuals to thank. Those who are not mentioned will be hurt and embarrassed, especially if their significant other is present. An exception is a series of teams that encompasses everyone or retirements at year’s end.

DO Give examples of initiatives that have been successful. Speak about going down the road together in the past year, expressing optimism about the new year. They don’t want the latest business forecasts, which may very well be negative. 

  • Don’t bring up the fact if it’s been a bad year for the business. This is a party. Such a mention will create paranoia about possible layoffs after the new year begins. 

DO Keep it to two or three minutes—tops! It’s not about you as boss. It’s about your making sure everyone feels valued.

  • Don’t go on and on.

DO Express your wish for happy and healthy holidays for everyone. 

  • Don’t Limit your wishes simply to the holiday itself, so everyone is included.

DO Use this moment to show the “gracious host” side of you. Employees’ significant others who notice may help to motivate a more positive attitude towards you.

  • Don’t have any alcohol before you speak. You must be at your peak to make this moment an effective one  

DO know in advance what you plan to cover in your message.

  • Don’t work from a script or notes. This should be brief and heartfelt 

Just an honest expression and positive wish will put a positive spin on the message and the party—and can make the difference whether the company or department approaches the new year feeling dread—or hope and optimism.

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