Cary L Cooper: How should employers celebrate the end of the year with staff?

The Christmas staff party: oh no, not another dull lunch, funny hats, Christmas crackers and pretending we are having fun.

No wonder people drink so much at this end-of-year celebration.

There must be better ways to close the old year and bring in the new one, but when December rolls around, we tend to get the same old venue, speeches and rubber chickens, with little time to think up a good enough excuse not to go.

But some organisations try to make it fun and think outside the box. I have heard of employees going on the London Eye with wine and other goodies, hiring a boat with a band on the river, going to a casino, taking a day-long outdoor adventure experience, driving old army tanks in fields or even Formula 1 cars.

The problem now, of course, is that we are in the middle of a recession, and many employers are trying to hang on to their cash, so they need to be more cost-effective in their celebrations.

For me, the answer is to decide on a budget, engage staff in a ‘celebration ideas’ competition, and let them decide what to do from a shortlist of ideas. I have always been impressed with the novel solutions to problems that come from staff if they are engaged in making decisions.

We are supposedly in the ‘engagement era’, so why shouldn’t staff make decisions about how they want to celebrate the end of the year? All they need is some guidance on budget, then let them decide if they want funny hats and Christmas crackers, or roasting chestnuts over a camp fire in the Lake District.

Cary L Cooper is professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School