Work-Life 12/3/2015

How Christmas Parties Can Take The Career Into The New Year by Leslie Juvin-Acker

Company Christmas parties are more than a chance to celebrate the holidays. They’re grounds for assessing the health of the company, our careers, and getting indicators for what the next year will be like. Love em or hate ‘em, Christmas parties can serve us for career building and professional fulfillment.

Joy. Joy for gainful employment. A chance to welcome new opportunities. A way to celebrate collective efforts for a singular focus through a process in which everyone wins. Christmas parties are reflections of these ideals.

If you are lucky to be a part of a company that celebrates your contribution and acknowledges your sacrifices and commitment, then you are truly fortunate. It’s not just a pat on the back, but it’s a public acknowledgement that what we do isn’t for nothing.

Who knows why we really host Christmas parties in the work environment. Afterall, the professional realm is ideally secular, meaning that everyone from religious, to nonreligious, to spiritual backgrounds can come together and work in harmony. What if, though, Christmas parties were just to celebrate the joy that we’re all together, in the same boat, rowing in the same direction?

Easier said than done, am I right? Especially, if management has royally screwed up some initiative, if people have been laid off, if the economic environment is volatile, or if the industry is dead or declining. Not so much to be joyful about, huh? It’s easy to feel resentful and angry towards members of our own team who we believe have let us down. It’s way harder to let bygones be bygones and move forward into the new year with a clean slate.

Christmas parties can be environments for the airing of grievances, of getting as wasted as possible as to not have to endure another awkward conversation, and to let loose after a year of feeling suffocated and, to pretend - for just one evening - that everything is absolutely fine.

Beyond judging the quality of the food and drinks and who is who and doing who, Christmas parties are the perfect opportunity to look around the room and ask ourselves two things: “Did I accomplish everything I set out to do this year in my career?” and “Is it for my highest good to continue working with these people in the new year?” Taking a thoughtful look at our contribution and the environment in which we act out our roles takes accountability and job satisfaction back into our own hands.

These two questions gets us to begin thinking of what we can do now for tomorrow, or in this case, the next year. While everyone is wandering around the party, listen to what is left unsaid. Carefully regard the expressions on people's’ faces and the tone of their voice when they talk about what’s been happening at work. All of these small, seemingly insignificant indicators will tell you what 2000-whatever will be like.

Having these little indicators in mind, plan your next career step and weigh your choices. While everyone is distracted in the little dramas and petty affairs, get a bigger picture of what’s happening in your industry and company and use the opportunity to grow in your favor. Insight is the gift that keeps on giving. The more insight we have, the more options keep popping up. While everyone else is nursing a metaphorical career hangover, you’ve started the new year on the right track.

So, no matter how your work Christmas party ends up being - a love fest or a roast - keep the positive attitude that until this point you’ve had a lot of wisdom and experience to gain (even from all the disfunction). Going forward this insight can serve you, giving all the confidence you need to step into the unknown.

Coach Leslie’s Questions To Ask:

1)    Is our annual Christmas party a celebration of our collective efforts and individual contributions, or is it an HR formality?

2)    Do we take the time to acknowledge what we’ve accomplished and give shout outs to those responsible for successes (big and small)?

3)    Are Christmas parties awkward and/or full of resentment? Would anyone have reasons to complain about their work/industry/environment? What does that say about the environment and our own contributions to these issues?

4)    When reflecting about individual contributions, did I accomplish everything I set out to accomplish? Why or why not?

5)    Is it in my highest good to continue learning from and working with my colleagues? Is this professional environment right for me and my personal/professional goals?

6)    How can I take what I have observed at the Christmas party to help me plan my next year career focus/strategy? What will my new year professional strategy look like?