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Charlie Duff

Sift Media


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To party or not to party – that is the question


Christmas bash, bonus culture clash, employees getting smashed… the nightmare before Christmas has begun, and the warnings and advice have begun flooding in. Charlie Duff identifes the key themes and tips to take heed of this season…

Don’t call off the Christmas party
In our poll, most of you were going ahead with a Christmas celebration. Only a few admitted to calling it off because it was too expensive, and no one claimed it was never appreciated, which tallies with the Chartered Management Institiute (CMI) which found that two thirds (65%) of managers across the UK believe that Christmas parties are important in helping to improve employee engagement. In autumn the organisation reported a 42% decline in employee engagement caused by the recession.

The latest survey, of 1,337 managers, found that 66% claimed that the office Christmas party is vital to recognise the hard work of staff undertaken throughout the year. A slightly higher proportion of managers (71%) also believe end of year celebrations should continue in spite of the recession: three quarters of managers argued that a warm approach to Christmas ‘is good for staff morale’.
Also important is how you are seen to be spending money. Over half – 58% – agreed that an expensive party could damage their organisation’s reputation. The research also discovered that half of managers believe that a ‘team lunch is better than an organisation wide party. The results show that employers are being cautious about the amount being spent on end of year celebrations. 41% indicate they are happy for time to be taken for a Christmas party, but will make no financial contribution. 34% have agreed to pay up to £40 per head.

Ruth Spellman, CMI chief executive, said: “There are too many examples showing that the poor quality of management and leadership in the UK lies at the heart of the disengaged workforce.  Our research shows that end of year festivities are clearly still of great importance to the UK workforce but the survey raises an interesting dilemma for UK organisations. How can employers say ‘thank you’ without incurring the wrath of the wider public? The answer is that employee engagement has never been as important as it is now, but it must come hand-in-hand with a tighter grip around the purse strings.”

Consider how you reward this Christmas

Mark Paskowitz, a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies said: “In this tough economic year, everyone’s focus has been on money, money, money. Businesses have been so focused on successful recovery by evaluating strategic and operational issues that they’ve forgotten to take a minute out to recognise the people working so hard alongside them. And if there’s one thing worse than not getting your expected Christmas bonus, it’s getting no Christmas bonus and a boss who acts like they don’t care about you either.”
“I’ve been into organisation after organisation recently, meeting people who’ve been working incredibly hard to pull their companies out of the red and back into the black,” he reports. “Yet whenever I’ve asked how many of them get too much praise at work, no one ever raises their hands.”

Paskowitz insists businesses need to re-focus on reward and recognition immediately, particularly in the run up to Christmas when people traditionally expect their employers to give back. He says organisations that don’t take the time to thank their people are depriving them of a deep-seated human need: if people don’t get the recognition they need in any walk of life – relationships, family life or work – trust, credibility, and a feeling of connection diminishes rapidly. Once this happens in the workplace, performance always suffers – slowly at first, in small, almost imperceptible ways – but then it starts to build. Eventually, people stay at work physically, but quit emotionally.
“There is a huge difference between people showing up at work and people doing their best at work,” says Paskowitz. “When I ask people to think about the best and worst leader they’ve ever worked for, they consistently remember their best leader as one who acknowledged and recognised them.”
“I’m not suggesting cash bonuses aren’t a good idea. I’m no Christmas Scrooge!” he says. “I just know it’s a mistake to think people only want monetary recognition. This will drive short-term behaviour, yes, but to create long-lasting impact, leaders should look at more durable factors driving intrinsic motivation. The trick is to find out what drives each person individually, then take time out to talk to your them, find out what their likes and dislikes are, what they enjoy doing. Then you start building a relationship that shows you are genuinely interested in that person.”
“People are starving for time with their bosses,” he adds. “They want an opportunity to be listened to and to be involved in what’s going on in the company. Just a few minutes on a regular basis can make all the difference to individual performance and loyalty.”

The comments from Paskowitz beg the question – why not start this Christmas with a team lunch and sit down and spend time with your team? Then try to make meetings – informal or formal more regular for 2010. There are lots of other ways you can keep in touch with your employees too – a new year resolution to make better communication a priority could make a big difference in your organisation.

Mark Paskowitz is hosting a free Webinar on the subject of Reward and Recognition on a Limited Budget on Tuesday, December 15, 2009, from 17:00-18:00. To register visit  and click ‘Webinars.’

However for those of you in small businesses or charities without a Christmas party, a competition, run over Ping Pong’s YouTube channel gives the chance to say thank you to their staff and volunteers by hosting an all expenses paid office Christmas party for the lucky winners.

To enter, organisations must simply record a short video message outlining why they deserve a free Christmas party this year. Messages can then be uploaded to YouTube and posted as a response on Ping Pong’s YouTube channel.

The competition closes at midnight on Friday December 18th December with winners announced on Tuesday 22nd December. Click here for more details.

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Charlie Duff


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