Lighten up it’s good for business (not just small business)

News headlines have lately been occupied with the death of the office holiday party. Big corporations are cutting back on black tie galas. Oh My! Is anyone really saddened by this? Does anyone really have a good time at these things? In big companies top executives dress as they normally would for an important evening out. Middle-management must buy something that looks classic yet fun. While the youngest of the worker bees always end looking like they are going to prom. And then there’s the schmoozing. Top execs really only want to sit with other top execs, but will visit with the prom queens. Middle levels are trying to visit with their staff and schmooze upper management. Really it’s a lot of work.

It’s also expensive for the company. But that doesn’t mean that we need to forget about thanking our staff during the giving season. Scaling back is fine as long as no one feels cheated. Maybe it’s time to return to the good old fashion office party. The kind with no pretensions or assigned seats.
I remember one of my most fun places to work was a small manufacturing firm. We partied frequently at the office because the boss believed in fun. They were small parties with potluck food and prizes for everyone. The company owner was endeared as a generous boss who cared about his employees.

Now, my husband works for a small Swedish company that likes to have fun on a scale that would embarrass most Americans. Yeah, we’d probably call their latest thing sexual harassment, but they call it hilarious. This month their having the Feronome contest to see or should I say smell who has the most attractive scent. This involves getting hand washed by the company coordinator and wearing the same t-shirt for days without showering. It’s crazy. It’s weird. It can be offensive, but by gosh is it silly. And it costs the company basically nothing.

The point isn’t to save all your thank you’s for the end of the year and then shoot them out in one big fancy thank you. The point is to make your employees feel special all year long. The point of making them feel special is to keep moral going. It’s especially important during a tough economy when not only could your business be lagging but so could their personal economies. If all they’ve got to look forward to is getting dressed up once a year and partying with their co-workers in a fancy dining hall then when that is taken away or changed it affects moral. And don’t think they won’t trash talk their employer to the outside world.

Maybe the reason we’re all searching for life-work balance is because work has become too much work and no fun.
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