Business Lessons Learned from Horrible Corporate Holiday Parties

entrepreneurshipWorkplace Success

Company Party photo from ShutterstockLaughter is the best medicine for any occasion, and these stories should make you feel great! But underneath the funny recounting of circumstances, are excellent business lessons. As you read each of the stories and questions that follow, you will recognize a critical element for business development and sales that went missing. Having included those elements would have made the parties far more enjoyable.

The following story took place in the 1970’s. An airline company required all of their in-house staff to attend their annual Christmas party. No one needed encouragement to go as they were fun-loving people and were looking forward to letting the good times roll. But then, the employees soon learned they would need to pay their own way; excitement dwindled.


1. When hosting a party, provide one you can afford. If others offer to help, accept the help graciously.

2. Serve a mixed drink to cut down costs such as cider or eggnog versus expensive individual drinks.

3. Find a way to keep associates/employees excited and engaged about the party.

Our next story advances to the 1980’s in Silicon Valley. It was another down economy and the software company was doing poorly. However, a year-end celebration was expected by the staff, and so the executives developed a “brilliant” idea.

Space was reserved at a community center in one of the halls where events such as sports or card games were held. Each middle manager was instructed to have their wives (women primarily stayed home in those years fulfilling homemaker duties) cook a dish for a potluck dinner. The wives put on a good face but were downright angry that their one night out, in honor of a holiday, put them to extra work while they watched the men chow down on their home made food.


1. What do your clients need, want and desire?

2. Are you meeting any of the anticipated expectations?

3. Are you treating your clientele fairly and with respect?

In today’s society, our next story is the best one saved for last. The executive team of a well-established retail company decided their party this year should be held at a hotel. Food will be free of charge but alcohol will be on a pay as you go basis.

Here is where the thinking becomes muddied. Spouses are not welcome in order to keep the cost down. Compounding the dilemma for employees, management does not want them drinking and driving. Therefore employees are being encouraged to stay over in the hotel.

Let’s restate the facts: Heavy drinking, spouses nowhere to be found, and rooms randomly registered. Hmmm….


What is the underlying message that this company is conveying to its staff – that of marriage or loyalty isn’t important? Monkey business takes precedent over professional business during the holidays?

Reviewing these stories and lessons, one may realize it is your personal brand that speaks volumes for every action you take. The moral of the story is remain true to your values – always. In this manner, you will never regret a day. Instead, you will be admired and always look forward to the Smooth Sale.