Communicate Better With Your Colleagues
How to Get Employees to Mingle at a Christmas Party
So the annual company Christmas party is coming up, and somehow you ended up in charge. When you look around, you may start to notice that the employees at your company don't really know each other all that well. You may worry that this is a recipe for a company Christmas party disaster, but if you bust out your party planning skills, you'll be able to get those employees to mingle in no time.
Creating a Friendly Atmosphere
Don't make the party feel like a work event.If you want people to mingle and to feel comfortable being themselves -- not their buttoned-up work selves -- then you have to make the atmosphere feel as festive as possible so people forget about their work selves. If you can throw the office party in another location, like at a person's house, an event hall, or a restaurant, then you can put people at ease this way; if you have to throw the party at the office, then make sure to make it look and feel as festive as possible by putting up tinsel, decorating a Christmas tree, or doing whatever you can to turn the usual work environment into a fun, festive place.
Create a mingle-friendly environment.Avoid the harsh bright lights that make the party feel like a meeting. When you can, dim the lights a bit and create a soft glow that makes people feel less self-conscious and more friendly. Play music in the background that creates a fun atmosphere without distracting the guests from talking to each other. Don't make the room too cold or the guests will be bundled up and more likely to leave and less likely to feel at home among other employees.
Get the right foods and drinks.If you want the party to be a success, then you should spend more money on good booze than good food. That being said, you should have enough food around so that people don't get drunk really fast because there's nothing to eat. Make it clear if it's going to be a dinner/pot-luck thing or if you'll just be providing snacks or desserts. If people know what to be prepared for, then they'll adjust their appetites accordingly. The booze will get people talking, and the food will keep them occupied.
- Put the food and drinks in a central area so people don't isolate themselves when they go back into the well.
- Get finger foods instead of big heavy foods so people are walking and moving around to get more food instead of sitting down over a heavy dish that makes it hard to chat.
- Don't bring foods that are too much of an effort to eat, like drumsticks or steak. Pick foods that you can easily bite or dip into things while having enough concentration to talk to people.
Helping People Mingle
Help people bond with a fun activity.Try a fun game like pool, darts, karaoke, or even sardines to get people together. Provide any activity which will help people start mingling and not talking about work. If you want to get even more creative, here are some other activities that can make employees have fun while opening up:
- A dance battle
- Cards Against Humanity
- Contests with prizes
Help people who don't know each other find common ground.Find two employees who you think would like to meet each other, and introduce them. Bring up a topic that you know they are both interested in ("Chris, isn't your son applying to colleges? Marley here has a sister who's an admissions officer at Yale. Maybe she can give you some tips!"), or relate one person's experience to the other ("Joan, did you know that Harold climbed Mount Everest last year?). Get the conversation rolling and then move on to mind your other guests.
- You can also help people who do know each other find common ground. If you do a bit of digging, you may find that a lot of people at your company have more in common than they think. This can make the party more fun and can even start some friendships away from the workplace.
Have employees fill out a fun questionnaire in advance.In advance of the party, have each guest complete a fun questionnaire about themselves, include such topics as "Unusual hobbies", "Pet peeves", "First job", "Most embarrassing moment", "Dream vacation"... etc. Then use the highlights of the results and create a fun fill-in party game for the guests. Once everyone guesses who's who, you can announce the correct answers, and if you'd like you can award the winner of the most correct. The main idea is to give out fun tid-bits about many of the guests and that will spark lots of conversation later.
- Make sure that the questionnaire really is fun and that you don't ask -- or reveal -- about any information that is too personal. Your goal should be to make the employees feel even more comfortable, not less.
Have an advance rule that no one can discuss business matters at the party.The whole point of the party is to help employees get to know each other as people, not as employees. Falling back on discussing work matters can be a real crutch, and can keep people from getting to know each other away from the office. Talking about work can also get pretty boring for the family members or guests of the employees, who will feel excluded from the conversation.
- Just remember that some people will be really shy or nervous and won't be able to find anything to talk about besides work. If they insist on doing this, then don't be too much of a pain about telling them what to talk about.
Don't let anyone get too drunk.Sure, a little bit of alcohol can make people open up and feel at ease, but too much alcohol can make people humiliate themselves by doing things like confessing their intense crush to a co-worker, or telling another co-worker that they're going to leave the company in a month. If you catch anyone who is becoming a little too loose-lipped, try to steer this person in the right direction or get him a safe ride home.
- On that note, if you want people to have fun, then you can't have a party full of designated drivers. Make a plan for employees to carpool together -- which will also encourage mingling -- or arrange for taxis to take people home in advance. This way, people will feel more relaxed and ready to mingle instead of watching what they drink and worrying about the drive home.
- Come by and check on people and make sure they're having a good time, help them through the party if they appear to be shy.
- Most everyone who knows at least one other person will help those two mingle, because they won't feel so weird going up to someone alone.
- If wished, you could buy/make Christmas presents to make people feel appreciated.
Sources and Citations
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