Celebrations in the Workplace

Celebrations in the Workplace

Celebrations in the WorkplaceBirthdays, promotions, retirements … there’s always an occasion to celebrate. There are some compelling reasons for companies to encourage these celebrations in the workplace, but there are some issues to keep in mind.

Why celebrate?

There are a number of reasons for celebrations that are favorable to the company. These include morale, team-building, and recognition of certain employees. By encouraging celebrations, employers are showing that they value employees as individuals.

Some might ask whether these celebrations are time wasters. I think they break up the day and employees often feel recharged afterwards to become more productive. Do you agree?

Concerns for employees

Employers may underwrite the cost of certain celebrations, such as a party to recognize that person has been with the company for 20 years. For some celebrations, employees may pass the hat or seek out contributions to pay for a gift, a birthday cake, or a card.  For some employees, this may be problematic:

  • They feel pressured to contribute, even if it’s supposed to be voluntary. For example, if only those who contribute to the cost of a gift can add their name to a card accompanying a gift, how voluntary is it?
  • They may not have the means to contribute. What may seem like a little contribution to some could be meaningful to others.
  • They may not support the project. For example, if employees are getting a gift for a manager who’s leaving the company, some employees may not have liked this person and don’t want to show appreciation.

Besides any direct cost to employees, there are personal reasons why some employees feel uncomfortable with office celebrations. Some just don’t relish socializing; they prefer to be all business at work. They don’t like to feel coerced into attending a celebration. I get it.

Concerns for the company

The cost of celebrations paid by the company is tax deductible. In fact, the cost of an office party may be 100% deductible. This is so even though the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the write-off for entertainment costs. While the IRS has yet to confirm that the cost of company holiday parties, barbeques, and other celebrations is still fully deductible, most tax experts believe this is so.

The company should also address other issues about celebrating (e.g., introducing alcohol in the workplace). And watch out for any inappropriate behavior among employees. Make it clear that sexual harassment or any other inappropriate behavior won’t be tolerated and will have consequences.

Final thought

Stephen Covey, who wrote 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” Makes sense to me to celebrate often. Just be sensitive to the concerns of your staff.


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