Poll reveals that over 1 in 5 experienced inappropriate behaviour at this year’s work Christmas party. We ask: Does the party bring about the employee benefits it is designed to do and are there any hidden dangers?

In a recent poll, we asked around a 1000 people to reflect on this year’s work Christmas party to understand how it ties back to the employee experience. Is it just a nice to have? Do people prefer it over a small financial bonus? Does it provide the desired culture and employee engagement benefits? And, finally, is there an uglier side to the festivities?

The work Christmas party is a tradition for many organisations who see it as an opportunity to take stock from the previous year, thank everyone for their hard work, and provide an opportunity for colleagues to celebrate together. For many, it is an important event to strengthen relationships, to break silo’s, to show leadership and enthuse people for the following year.

In our employee engagement research we see time and time again the importance of feeling valued in order to have a motivated workforce. We find that this is usually a bigger driver than money (as long as someone’s pay is not obviously unfair). The work Christmas party is a great way to demonstrate the extent to which employees are valued as companies have no legal obligation to do it, yet they often invest heavily into the occasion. The agenda tends to include a CEO speech, awards for high performers and those demonstrating the right behaviours, lots of food and free drink(s), and various activities designed to get people talking and having fun.

Our poll found that:

  1. Those who’s organisations did throw a work Christmas party were asked to rank how valued they felt from 1-10 (10 being extremely valued). Two-thirds (66%) ranked themselves as 7 or more, with only 6% ranking a 3 or less (1 being extremely undervalued). Those whose organisations threw a Christmas party were much more likely to feel valued. 
  2. Only 22% would prefer to receive a small financial bonus than attend a work Christmas party. Opinions were pretty consistent across all age groups, with a slight positive skew towards those who were younger. So generally speaking, people prefer the party over money. Admittedly, that might change if you increased the financial bonus significantly, but the sentiment seems clear.

So, it is a win-win right? Christmas party = valued and therefore motivated employees…

Worryingly, one in five (21%) of those who attended a work Christmas party said that they witnessed inappropriate behaviour. With those who said yes more likely to be male (9%-points higher than female).  

This is a really worrying sign if the percentages are even remotely scalable nationwide. Although this was only a small poll, it suggests a very genuine concern around the behaviour being demonstrated at work events. It highlights questions around individual responsibility in being mindful of others as well as for organisations themselves. Do organisations do enough to remind employees in a time of celebration that established values and behaviours should remain evident. That by supplying in many cases ‘free bars’, that it does not change what is acceptable or not.

As experts in the employee experience, we understand the importance of employees feeling valued and engaged for individuals and their organisations. We recognise that on the whole, Christmas parties and other celebrations are fantastic opportunities to bring people together, to celebrate, and to strengthen cultures. However, organisations must do all that they can to maintain the highest standards so that no colleague attend these events feeling anything less than the desired outcome.

If you wish to understand more about the poll or discuss the employee experience at your organisation, please contact Lee Cartwright, Employee Experience Director at Lee.Cartwright@BMGresearch.co.uk

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