Party Planning for a Diverse Team

Jodie Fox
November 20, 2019
Jodie Fox

What we choose to celebrate, and how, sends messages about who we are and what we value as a team. As 2019 draws to a close, make sure that your organisation’s end-of-year celebration is an event everyone can enjoy.

Keep it inclusive

Half of Australians do not identify as Christian.[1] Dr Sondra Thiederman, author of Making Diversity Work, recommends that employers “put the emphasis on celebrating”, and focus on those things that the team shares. She suggests a “holiday party” rather than a Christmas party, and she discourages attempts to list every religion and culture represented in the team. “The more you try to please members of every single group, the greater danger you are of deeply offending someone left out”. The celebration should be a unifying activity, not one that spotlights differences.

Not everyone celebrates in the same way

If some members of the team don’t drink alcohol, for example, for religious or other personal reasons, you can still offer alcoholic drinks but balance that out with sparkling water and other non-alcoholic beverages. This is essential from an OHS perspective in any case!

For catering, ensure that diverse dietary needs and preferences will be accommodated. Ask about dietary requirements beforehand and make sure you have decent vegetarian meal options.

Keep your values front and centre

Think about what sort of celebration will reflect the team’s purpose, values and ways of engaging. You can also ask the team – how do they want to celebrate together?

If a speech is made at the event, use the opportunity to reflect the team’s diversity, successes and the challenges they have overcome, rather than just reflection on one culture’s religious celebration. A celebratory speech expressing gratitude for all that the team has achieved in the year and joy in taking time out to be together at the end of the year confirms to all staff know that you respect and care about them.

Avoid alienating activities

If you fear that some employees may exercise bad judgment in a Kris Kringle or gift exchange – due to past behaviour, lack of respect or risqué ‘jokes’ – don’t organise one. Alternatively, in the email invitation you can gently remind people of the importance of respectful engagement.

If you are going somewhere that serves alcohol have a reasonable fixed finish time, when the alcohol cuts off and people are encouraged to go home.

Don’t just ‘kick on’ from one venue to another – people who have been drinking since 1pm rarely make great decisions at 10pm that night!

You can invite financial contributions (but offer alternatives)

Some workplaces have little or no budget for staff social events, and invite staff to contribute financially to a lunch or other event. The end of the year is an expensive time for many people, even those who don’t invite ‘Santa’ down the chimney. So if the team needs individual financial contributions to get the event off the ground, consider offering a couple of alternatives (eg food only / no drinks, or social time with no meal) to keep the costs down for those who can’t afford it.

Include everyone in the invitation (but don’t force their attendance)

Remember – not everyone is an extroverted party person. Everyone should be able to enjoy some team time at the end of the year, or to opt out without negative connotations, if they prefer.

The end of the year is a special time for everyone, for many reasons. We’ve all had a big year and achieved a lot! Getting together is a great way to celebrate our shared efforts – whatever your colleagues’ religions, financial circumstances and party preferences.

[1] Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics,

About Jodie Fox

Jodie Fox  is passionate about helping people and organisations manage workplace conflict in a productive way. She specialises in workplace investigationsworkplace reviews and mediations to address and resolve complaints and foster a positive workplace culture. An experienced employment lawyer, she works with clients from a diverse range of industries providing pragmatic and strategic advice. She is a knowledgeable and engaging writer and speaker.

Please contact Jodie for an obligation free consultation via email or call (03) 9981 6558.

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