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What your Company Holiday Party Says about your Culture

Reading Time: 4 minutes

While planning a holiday celebration for Stories Incorporated, Scott and I asked ourselves: is there more to this than throwing a fun party? What can your holiday party say about your company culture?

It caused me to re-evaluate “parties of companies past” and what the celebration said about the corporate culture in which I lived. My holiday party epiphanies:

1. The People Make the Party

Even when I was at an all time low in employee satisfaction – I still love a company holiday party. I quit the Friday before a company’s holiday party and had a great, non-awkward time. In fact, it felt like a joyful send-off!

What this might say about the culture: The people and the community were the thing. Some companies let their people outgrow a job and move on. Nothing personal. In fact: Good luck! This company has a vested interest in maintaining good relationships – their philosophy is that at some point, anyone could work from them, buy from them, sell to them…so they never burn bridges.

2. I’ll Bring the Salad

During a particularly rough economic time, the company I worked for decided not to throw a holiday party – completely understandable given the times. I mentioned in friendly conversation with my boss that I attended a pot-luck-gone-wrong the weekend before. Later that day, an email was sent to all employees that in lieu of a holiday party, we were having a potluck – because of a great suggestion by me!

What this might say about the culture: Maintaining appearances is important, and the state of the business is not your business. Even when the organization was clearly having a fantastic year – as an employee, I was in the dark as to what that meant from a revenue perspective. We weren’t encouraged to or expected to work a minute after 5:30, but then again, lunch was only an hour no matter what. This was work-life in the most traditional sense.

3. Sometimes a Party is Just a Party

A few weeks into a new position, I stumbled across the previous year’s holiday party pictures on the server. It was a black-tie Casino-night, with the most senior executives dancing and my new coworkers smiling over cocktails.

What this might say about the culture: Sometimes a party is just a party, and it says nothing about your culture! In the retail space, the holidays are one of the most stressful times – some of those smiling employees had been working unusually long hours for the last month. But, it can be speculated despite a tough month – of maybe because of! – those employees still chose organized fun and coworkers over crashing at home. So, there’s a cultural insight: coworkers are a driver in what engages or disengages an employee in their corporate environment.

That brings us to this year. What are we doing? And what does this say about the culture we’re building? Stay tuned.


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