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Reputation & Christmas parties: Why I won’t be having a festive celebration this year


I love any excuse for a party, but I'm not prepared to throw a large, extravagant festive shindig this year.

If you're feeling under pressure and exhausted right now, and Christmas seems a welcome break – you're not alone.

There's no doubt the pandemic has created a new kind of burnout, taking a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. A global study by Adecco revealed Australian workers were the most burnt out in the world, with more than 53% revealing they had suffered burnout over the past year.

Tempers are short, energy is low, and physical health is challenged through stress, and as a result, mental health issues are surging to an all-time high.

Relationships are fraught and tested, the elderly have been isolated, parents are exhausted, teams are working overtime (or not at all) and many are wondering if a sharp pinch would mean we wake up from the latest disaster pandemic movie.

Except it's real.

And the pressure keg is mounting as the year comes to an end.

Along with this comes a confusing back-to-work protocol between WFH vs. office based vs. hybrid models, financial uncertainty with the foreseeable end of government assistance, and staff running scared with close contact calls.

It's been a hell of a year.

Throw in a boozy extravagant Christmas party and you can just picture a volcano erupting and the potential aftermath as brands, families and individuals deal with fallout.

The return to social gatherings

Whether you're in charge of the office party, your social club reunion or a family Christmas celebration, be prepared – there may be some reticence around social gatherings due to COVID-fuelled social anxiety.

When participants are worried, frightened or suffering anxiety, issues can escalate, so you may want to address this.

Remind everyone of the facts and re-state the social expectations so it doesn't backfire on motivation or the success of your event. It would be sad to have got through the year and then find yourself having to deal with reputations at risk.

Time to stop and think before "The Great Resignation" turns into "The Great Drunk and Disorderly" or "The Great Fallout".

Perhaps a little planning now and you can put some parameters around what it means to celebrate the end of this very unique year – and what you want to get out of, or are trying to achieve, with your Christmas festivities.

I, for one (who loves any excuse for a party), am not prepared to throw a large, extravagant Christmas party this year.

Things have been hard for many people in my world. From the experiences of those I work with through to my family, however united, supportive and protective we have been.

For families, they've faced health worries, home schooling, genuine fear of coming into town or being in public places.

It's been a hard slog.

Group of people celebrating with Santa hats. They are toasting at a Summer Christmas party, and there is food on the table. Shot from above. High, wide angle view

Even if we do normally celebrate our successes, throwing money at an extravagant knees-up (or piss-up) quite frankly doesn't seem right.

Although I did invite my team together for the first time in a fairly understated, casual tribute to the Melbourne Cup to test the waters and show collegiality and brand loyalty, I don't believe a top-of-the-range celebration was on brand after such a tough and worrying period.

So what will suit you this year?

What will work for your team, family and friends?

What will fit in with your brand values and what is appropriate for those you socialise with in planning your Christmas celebration?

How to build your personal brand

Putting your party together

For those of you planning a Christmas event this year, these questions may help:

  1. What has the last 6 months been like for you, your social group or your workplace? Are you booming or suffering?
  2. Do you have a traditional Christmas celebration you need to uphold? If so, do you stick with it, or is now the time to break that tradition?
  3. What is the emotional tone about a social gathering? Have you asked the question?
  4. Have you noticed those in your world are back to "business as usual" since lockdown restrictions have eased? Or are they still hesitant and nervous?
  5. What expectations do your guests, family, management team or staff have of a celebration? Lay low or something else?
  6. Would anyone be disappointed with you doing nothing, something, or going all out?
  7. How do you feel personally about being the organiser? Are you ready to celebrate?
  8. What about the decision to celebrate in another way? Could virtual arrangements, an outdoor picnic or a gift instead of parties and booze be an option? Some may want to hold off Christmas and gather for a New Year celebration when things are easier.
  9. Is now the time to donate that money to a good cause because perception has changed and your guests are now more socially responsible?
  10. Bear in mind, if you've left it this late, you may not be able to get into anywhere right now with the rush on restaurants and venues. You may have to, by necessity, be creative with your ideas and planning, or move Christmas to a New Year celebration.

If you've experienced slashed bonuses, salary cuts, cut-backs on hours and days, or asked suppliers for extended terms, I would suggest now may not be the time to go all out by splashing out on a big Christmas celebration.

But you may have a group that are still excited and on edge with anticipation to celebrate the end of a year.

If you're the lead, run with your gut and do what feels right for you.

And if big and splashy is what you are going to do, prepare by laying down some ground rules on behaviour and COVID-19 protection rules. For the corporates out there, don't forget to check the WH&S and COVID safety rulebook. You don't want to have your brand exposed in the public eye for all the wrong reasons.

Good luck! And have fun – after all, it's nearly Christmas.

Sharon Williams is the CEO and founder of Taurus, an integrated Marketing and PR agency that works with global brands.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article (which may be subject to change without notice) are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Finder and its employees. The information contained in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort. Neither the author nor Finder has taken into account your personal circumstances. You should seek professional advice before making any further decisions based on this information.

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