While it’s impossible to meet every person’s needs, here are some excellent ideas when planning a celebration.

By Denise Boudreau-Scott

This article by Denise Boudreau-Scott, founder of Drive, was first published at Senior Housing Forum at the end of 2012. We should have published it in November of this year, but even now, when the holiday parties are over or all but over, it serves as a reminder about how to do it better next year.

Holiday Parties

Last week I had an interesting conversation about a holiday party that an organization had planned for their staff.

A happy topic right?

But the person I was speaking with was frustrated that many of the non-supervisory staff members were not attending. She wondered if it were a reflection on employee morale. Lots of effort was put into planning the event and she felt badly that people just couldn’t be bothered with it.

I knew the feeling well. One year I was actually so annoyed with what I deemed ungrateful staff that I threw away my copy of “1,001 Ways to Motivate Employees”! Having learned from my own experience, I suggested to the person I was talking with that she look beyond her frustration to the real issue.

Many of the non-supervisory staff works two jobs. When you are barely making ends meets how likely are you to take a day off your second job to attend a party?

Many staff members are single mothers with no support systems. Do you pay a babysitter to attend a holiday party or buy a coat for your child? Thinking about a different perspective was eye opening for this leader. She realized that she had never thought about the real reasons people were not attending the celebration. Don’t assume everyone has the same way of life or standard of living that you do.

Take Action!

Reading “Random Family” by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc dramatically changed the way I interact with non-supervisory staff. The author followed a family living in poverty and shares life from their perspective. The book became even more meaningful to me when one of the women in the book took a job as a nursing assistant. For a quicker read, this article from the NY Times shares one CNAs struggles with juggling it all.


While it’s impossible to meet every person’s needs, think about these ideas when planning a celebration:

  • Let Staff Members Plan:   A simple, but often overlooked, idea is to have staff members that represent a variety of perspectives plan the celebration.

  • Welcome Children:  Can you arrange for babysitting on site or a daytime party that welcomes children?

  • Share the Goodies:  Hold a free raffle for staff to share the gifts your team receives this season. One year, a staff member who won a basket told me she was so thankful because she now had a present to give her husband who was otherwise getting nothing.    

From Steve:  Many years ago I worked for a long gone senior living company based in Beverly Hills. Our local corporate staff was just a dozen or so people and each year at Christmas time “The Boss” would charter a deep sea fishing boat for a day. Team members and their families were all invited. The snack bar was open and everything paid for by the company. Since that time, I have been to dozens of holiday parties and those were the very best. My kids, now in their 30’s, still remember them with great fondness.