A Very Merry Corporate Christmas

By Katie Pusz

With Christmas less than a week away, everyone is hustling and bustling to make sure the holiday is “perfect” for their family party. The grandparents need special transportation, mom needs extra help in the kitchen, dad is practically no help at all and you—well you’re just the glue that’s attempting to piece the mismatched puzzle together in somewhat of a pretty picture. And while family parties are crazy, stressful and occasionally fun, it makes you wonder what kind of jolly work goes into a corporate holiday party.

Buried in a small industrial park in the heart of Frazer is a healthcare sterilization company known as Healthmark Industries. From the warehouse workers to office personnel, Healthmark employees ensure and deliver quality products to world-wide hospitals, dental offices, plastic surgeons and even tattoo parlors. But, make no mistake, the employees’ dedication and hard work does not go unnoticed nor unrewarded. With scattered company events such as the annual Tigers’ game, the on-site company barbeque, monthly birthday bagel day and surprise pizza luncheons, Healthmark employees have much to look forward to. However, none of those company perks can stack up to the annual Christmas party at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. And while the Healthmark founders fund the holiday event for their 80 grateful employees, one person in particular organizes the entire thing herself, and—being her daughter—I was able to see first-hand all of the energy put into the festive event.

Healthmark Director of Materials Management Cindy Pusz starts preparing for the company’s Christmas party six months in advance. While that seems like enough time to host “party of the year,” it’s actually just enough time to get everything together. In addition to the annual party planning, Pusz also manages her daily work responsibilities of purchasing company supplies and managing inventory, and the duties of a supermom, wife and grandma. Did I mention she never gets coal in her stocking?

In an interview, Pusz breaks down the whole party planning process and offers tips on how to appropriately handle the holidays in a corporate world.

Her number one priority: “Always taking culture into consideration,” Pusz said. “When it comes to gifts for bosses, co-workers or employees, I encourage culturally neutral yet personal gifts. Find out his or her favorite restaurant or store and give a gift card to that place, or buy something you know that person may need such as a desk clock, or maybe an engraved pen set so they always have one handy. Most people assume food because everyone likes food, but you may not be familiar with that person’s ethnic background or allergies, and never know which foods could be offensive or dangerous.”

Which led into our next topic—party food!

“Again, I try to stay neutral,” Pusz said. “I pick a variety of foods to meet everyone’s needs. Always a veggie tray or a pasta dish for the vegetarians, a variety of fish, chicken and red meat for the meat and potatoes lover and always, always a salad! You can never go wrong with a salad.”

While gifts and food are the given priorities of a party whether you’re in a corporate setting or in the comfort of a home, drinks are complicated and can often make the situation sticky in a professional place.

“Most respectable people know how to control his or her alcohol consumption, so I think it’s fine to have alcohol available to whoever may want it,” Pusz said. “Some people don’t want it, or they don’t drink—that’s great, and there’s a variety of other beverages to choose from. But there should be cocktail options for those who enjoy it.”

However, Pusz explained the most stressful part of the holiday planning is not the food, the drinks or the gifts, but the people.

“Everything revolves around the people,” Pusz said. “It’s hard to please everyone. You want everyone to come, but obviously it’s rare to pick a day when everyone is available. I stay organized by keeping a spreadsheet of everyone’s name and their response. I also send out RSVP cards so I have in writing who is coming and who isn’t, and ask for them to be returned four to five days before I have to reply to the Yacht Club.”

She made it sound so simple and easily put together, but we all know getting RSVPs is not a stress-free task, so I asked about the stragglers—the ones who just can’t seem to reply before the printed date.

“I’ll usually send an email 48 hours before my deadline for the headcount, and remind those who haven’t responded that I need an actual yes or no response,” Pusz said. “If they still don’t reply, I mark them as a no.”

And there you have it folks, the inside scoop on corporate holiday planning. Of course, each company and person plans and coordinates a little different from one another, but if you’re a little blurry on corporate etiquette or are just that dab of glue that needs to hold together a few mismatched pieces with a fresh perspective, hopefully these tips from a veteran in the world of company party planning will help you decide the best option for your scenario.

From my family to yours—Happy Holidays!

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