You Can Have a Successful Christmas Party

We did it. A party at our house, for as many nursing home managers as we felt we could accomodate, enjoying an after hours Christmas celebration with an open bar (there were even cameras). Twenty-two out of thirty showed up, and we could have accomodated more if they had been invited. Our biggest problem turned out to be the crappy directions (I included some neighbohood Christmas decor in the directions that were subsequently not lit the night of the shin-dig; that damned giant toy soldier was supposed to be there, I swear).

Oh, this dreaded Christmas Party. The day I sent out the invitations, NPR ran a story on how taboo office Christmas parties have become. The day of the party, Oprah and Rachel Ray re-ran their special about throwing the perfect party. Nothing close to what I had going. The night before our stereotypical get-together, "The Office" featured the dueling Christmas parties from hell. While nobody stole the cord to our Karaoke machine, it seemed as if we had everything going against us.

In light of the event, here are a couple of simple tips, courtesy of both Matt Maupin HFA and Rachel Ray:

10. We have more liquor in the house than when we started. Maybe you work with a different group than I do, but if every guest brings a gift, that alone is enough for a good party. Drinkning definately happened. Someone even showed up sloshed. But c'mon. I own top-shelf Scotch as a result of this party. With the number of gifts we received, we could have spent a LOT less on the booze.We are now the proud owners of a fully stocked bar. Whoopee!

9. There is enough food leftover to throw another party. And that's exactly what we're thinking about doing. With the wine and beer we have leftover, we could have a serious hoe-down. Twenty-two people didn't eat two pounds of shrimp (that's not a lot). We served over 300 Christmas cookies. Three veggie trays. Ten pounds of mixed nuts. Five different cheeses. Twelve different wines. Just assume that people won't eat that much. If you run out of food, your guests can either drink more or hit Perkins/IHOP/Bob Evans/Willie's/Big Boy/Denny's. Make too much food and you'll be eating nothing but stuffed mushrooms and cocktail weiners for a week solid.

8. Most people aren't beer snobs. If you are, then get over it. The Miller Light moves a lot faster than the Blue Moon and the Smithwicks.

7. Keep it simple, stupid. You know what the biggest hit of the party was? The ham swirls. That's ham and cream cheese rolled up and cut into pieces. Makes me want to write a top ten list of recipes with only two ingredients. Number two on the list was the veggies and dip. You can't go wrong with sour cream and Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix. Forget the home-made cookies, the gourmet mushrooms, and all the items I sliced, diced, mixed, and baked with love. Two ingredients, ham and cream cheese, were the hit of the party.

6. Do one thing that truly separates yours from other lame Christmas parties. I didn't. Everybody left after three hours.

5. Don't leave your personal items laying out. This may include Playboys, personal pictures, lotions, medications, letters, pictures, devices, books, clothing, keys, computers, music, etc. When your employees find out you listen to Prince and use Bath and Body Works Sweet Pea Scented Body Lubrication, they probably won't see you in quite the same light.

4. The boss doesn't go to the afterparty. I caught word about karaoke down the street. people hitting the local dive to "have a good time". Just stay home and clean up the mess. People leave for a reason. One thing to remember is that most people have baby-sitters, families to go home to, and other obligations. Maybe you've asked them to be at work the next day, so they have a self-imposed curfew. Don't be offended. You've done your part. Good work.

3. Keep track of who brought a gift and deliver a sincere thank you note on Monday morning. Think you scored points by hosting the party? Show you were actually paying attention to what people were handing you. Not only does this highlight what a good guy you are, it shows your attention to detail. We received wine, scotch, chocolate, teas, and decorations. Your employees earned the money they spent on your gifts, so show some gratitude. Top that by hand-delivering thank-you's to eveyone who came to the party before they have a chance to reciprocate.

2 Do it again next year. You've set the standard now. Don't let 2007 fall by the wayside. Take what you've learned and apply. Less food, less booze (or more if it's the right formula). Just remember, you can exhibit integrity all year long, but it only takes one incident of knocking over a Christmas tree to flush that well-earned-respect down the toilet. That doesn't mean you should forego the entire event. Identify short-comings and make up the difference. Live and learn, eveybody does it.

1. The Christmas party can be a good thing. I have learned that the all-staff party can be dangerous (usually you have at least one employee hoping to set you up for trouble) event. Instead of one big party , throw several smaller ones (separate Business Office, Nursing, Dining Services, etc.). Just remember some of these key tips and you will be able to keep the entire event in check. It is more important to save your integrity than to be everybody's best friend.

Here's to each of you having a great employee Holiday Party this year!

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