SURVEY SAYS: What Are Your 2009 Office Holiday Party Plans?

December 3, 2009 ( - It’s that time of year again – time for the office holiday party.

This week, I asked readers if they were having one, where it would be held, and if they planned to attend…as well as an opportunity to share some stories about the event(s).  

More than half were, in fact, having a holiday party (57.1%).  In fact, if you add to that the 13% who said they were having “more than one” party – well, that means that 70% will be having a party.  And THAT, interestingly enough, is a near-perfect match to the 71% that said they were having workplace parties in surveys we conducted the past two years (see SURVEY SAYS: Will You Have a Holiday Party This Year?

Of course, that leaves about 17% who said they were not doing so, another 4% that still weren’t sure – and just over 9% who opted for “other.”  That latter category included workplace gatherings that perhaps fell short of the definition of a “party”, including the following: 

“If you can call a pot luck luncheon a party!”  

“If you can call the employees planning, staging, and paying for a catered meal an office party…then I guess we’re having one.” 

“Typically, we do not have “parties” but have dinners or luncheons. And, again this year, we are having a mandatory luncheon. I thought invitations were something that could be responded to by either a yes or no???”

“We are having bagels and coffee/hot chocolate on the 24th.”

“It will be at a public “zoo lights” venue at our local zoo. More for families with free admission to the zoo. Not very exciting but it fits the company budget.”

 And some events that perhaps were “more” than a party: 

“Instead of the full office party, we use the money to buy presents for “adopted” needy families. We shop in teams and then have a wrapping party with goodies in the afternoon. We’ve been doing for three years and everyone loves it much more than the usual Holiday Party.”

“I am actually glad we are doing for the less fortunate in a variety of categories – VA Hospital, 2 families with children, pets of seniors and seniors that may not be remembered this holiday season.  In addition our Vice President who remembers each and everyone one of us personally with a gift at the Holidays will be making a donation in our name to various charitable organizations this year. And to be honest, I really like that idea. We were given three or four charities to choose from, so it is very personal.”


Most of those parties (65.6%) will be off-site, though a full quarter would be on premises, and 11.5% would be both on – and off – premises. 

As for who would be attending, 58% said “yes” (up about 10% from a year ago), and another 11.6% said they “wouldn’t miss it!”  Just under 12% said they have to attend (down from 18% in 2008), 4.3% said they weren’t sure, while a full 13% plainly said “no.”   

Party "Flavors"

As for stories about parties… 

I have more stories about this place than I can think of...and I mentioned half of them, you wouldn't believe me anyway!  

I've known more that one married couple that originally met and "hooked up" at a company-sponsored holiday party/event. 

Seems like the smaller companies I worked for over the years had the more "interesting" holiday parties. A lot of "career ending" actions happened at them. The larger companies had parties, but it seemed they were more subdued.  

Every year we have a white elephant gift exchange. We are a non-profit and one of our focus areas is teen pregnancy prevention. One year the young man working in the teen pregnancy prevention area randomly chose a white elephant gift that contained a Barbie doll and a condom.  

It was my first "office Christmas party." I was 24 years old and had been with the company 1 week. Someone spiked the punch with grain alcohol and Ginger was sitting on Tom's lap making out! One guy told me about his "open marriage" and how he and his wife were swapping with another employee and his wife. Although I had been a hippie and a bit of a wild child before getting this job (it was a very conservative company), I felt like such a prude. This was 1972.  

Oh, the holiday party where there was plenty of booze, and no hors'd'oerves... I'm still trying to forget driving home an intoxicated puking just-started-working-there-coworker who couldn't even remember where she lived... we had to go into her wallet to get her driver's license to find her address! And then, when we got her home, we had to tell her two small children (who were home alone - gasp!) that she had eaten bad seafood and didn't feel well, as we carried her stumbling body into her house.  I think I was more embarrassed than she was the next time I saw her at the office!  

 I'm quite glad alcohol is (usually) no longer acceptable. There were always stories to tell the next day. Though I enjoy a drink or two, it was always more fun to stay sober and watch "take notes" 

Among my favorite verbatims:

“I always find that most interesting things come out with open bars.”

“I work for one of the best organizations around.  Our CEO truly cares about us, our welfare, and our workplace.  I've heard some people say that at a lot of companies, s**t runs downhill, but here, the good runs downhill.”

"Holiday party fun depends on the people around you during the party otherwise it seems to be "mandated fun".

“Our holiday lunch/party is at a bowling alley this year. Should be interesting..”.

“This is timely because our party is tonight after work.  We're not 'required' to go, but we all know that if we don't go, it's noticed by our management.  Our HQ is in a different city, so all the HR honchos come up to hang with us for the evening to spread goodwill and cheer.  Our parties aren't horrible and we all usually have a decent time.  They're at LEAST a few steps up from dental work.  :)”

“Unfortunately is a "required to attend" type of affair. With no raises/bonuses this year (or communication about it mind you, while the company performed quite well in 2009, all things considering) it will be a burden I'd rather not deal with. My only highlight will be the reaction on everyone's faces when they see the ornament I picked out for the "Kris Kringle" gift exchange. For goal was to pick out the ugliest, worst thing I could find that nobody would ever put on their tree. I think I may have done it!” 

"Yeah...I wish....we make Amish people look like party-goers."

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who noted, “A party with a room full of auditors is surprisingly entertaining...”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

As for comments about office parties, there were more than a few, including: 

“I work in a gigantic insurance company, so we'd never have one big party.  However, each individual department could organize its own, but guess what?  Everyone is too wrapped up in his or her own lives to be bothered.  Why don't I plan it, you're thinking?  I plan everything else--birthdays, food drives, collecting and buying gifts at Xmas for those less fortunate, and it's like pulling teeth.  I can't even collect a dollar a month for birthday cakes, let alone getting people to show up for a party. It really puts a damper on the season, knowing no one gives a thought about anyone but themselves.  Ugh.  Anyone out there having a big office party that I can attend to have some fun?”

"We do have a lunch time potluck, but no party.”

“We could give up our party or take a cut in benefits.  We all voted to give up the party."

“Each year the party reminds me that it is impossible to make everyone happy. We do a very nice party and close the company for 1/2 a day to have the party and yet people still complain about it. I don't understand why people complain about something that's free and gives them an opportunity to be away from work.”

“We are scaling WAY back -- from a lavish do at a local hotel for employees and their guests to an onsite daytime potluck for employees only. No one seems to be particularly disturbed.”

“I believe that these kinds of functions should be RSVP'ables; and therefore, if for some reason an individual did not wish to attend, could send Regrets and not feel the pressure before or especially after the event.”

“I would be going this year but I am out of town on business.”

“Rather than a party this year, we are contributing to worthy causes, food banks, senior citizen meals, etc. - in the true spirit of the season!”

“I don't mind them not having a party for the last couple of years (money has been tight).  We focus our attention on sponsoring local families for Christmas, and donating to other causes, to keep that Christmas spirit going.”

"No white elephant this year....will be giving to less fortunate. Works for me since most times the ""gifts"" end up being regifted! Although I will miss the fun of opening the white elephant gifts and seeing what people deem appropriate for an office gift!” 

“Why do workplaces' think that Chinese/Yankee auction gift exchanges are fun and appropriate? The idea that someone else can "steal" a gift from another is basically mean spirited.  To avoid the annual Chinese auction at my workplace, I take the day of the auction as a vacation day.  Additionally, I find the terms Chinese Auction and Yankee Auction, given the nature of the activity, offensive to people who self identify as being Chinese and/or Yankee.” 

“Our annual holiday luncheon features a huge smattering of chef-prepared buffet items and dessert treats.  By having it on-site (and sans alcohol), the company eliminates those pesky problems of inappropriate behavior often associated with nighttime, off-site, dress-to-the-nines and party-like-a-rock-star events.  But frankly, I much prefer the latter - if for nothing but the sheer fun of watching people who should know better behave like idiots!”

“Nice to have, but I wouldn't miss 'em if they were discontinued.”

“Free good meal!  Can't beat that!”

“It's amazing, considering the litigious nature of our society, that this tradition persists.’

“We are having it on site and toned down.  We believe the image of a lavish off-site party is not in our best image.  No gifts, we have adopted several needy families and will give to them.”

“This one is nice - the employer pays for a nice cocktail hour and dinner for employee and date at a local country club.  Instead of trading cheesy gifts, employees can opt to donate to make a contribution to the local homeless shelter or adopt a family.  Nothing more depressing than being required to attend a mandatory "party" where everyone has to bring food.”

“ It's tonight & I'm to get my 15yr tenure award, but I'm home sick with a cold and it's snowing.”

“Required ethics training is at the offsite location right before the "party" so everyone that is in town needs to attend.”

“Traveling out of town on business this weekend.”

“If we had one, it would surely be mandatory!”

“The party is after work hours. While I like my employer and am glad that I am employed, I do not give my personal (read private) time to my workplace. I have a good working relationship with my supervisors and colleagues, but I intentionally keep it at an arms-length distance. I do this from learning the hard way that when you mix work and play, it can come back to kick you.”

“No, since the luncheon is scheduled the week before Christmas, I will already be on the road. My wife's family Christmas party is much better any way.”

“The party is during the afternoon (Noon to 5 PM). If you don't go, you have to stay in the office and work!”

“We haven't had an office party in at least 10 years. I don't think it's because of the liability or cost, just because no one wants to socialize with their co-workers. Pretty sad.”