Office Politics 101: Retirement party planning
Q: My boss is retiring and I’ve been asked to organize a staff farewell party for her. I’m happy to make the arrangements, but I don’t know where to begin. The party will be held in about a month. Any ideas for me?
A: You probably have mixed emotions at this time. You will no doubt miss her, but you are also excited about the prospects of a new supervisor and the opportunities that may be presented to you.
Retirement is often quite emotive because it is so final. In a matter of a month, she will be gone: her office and position will be filled by someone else. She is likely somewhat sensitive at this time as she contemplates her new life without day-to-day work responsibilities.
A farewell party, then, needs to be mindful of her state but also acknowledge her contribution to the life of the company in a meaningful way.
People are often encouraged to retire “to something” as opposed to “from something” and you will almost certainly want to learn about her plans in order to include them in any presentations.
Her retirement aspirations may include travel or a hobby, for example, and it will be desirable to consider these in terms of a relevant gift — one that she will truly appreciate and remember.
Although the “roast” continues to be a popular retirement theme, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Yes, there is plenty of opportunity for laughter — most of it good-natured — however, the mood can be overly-frivolous and the person being honoured may feel undervalued, even hurt.
The tribute, above all else, must be heartfelt. Insincere obligatory messages, especially from senior managers, need to be kept to a minimum. Select only those employees who know her well and can speak about her character based on working with her.
In brainstorming the program, consider a small committee of two or three employees — including you — who can develop a premise which will tie everything together. A scattered approach will be less memorable and less honouring to her.
Food and drink are essential of course, but avoid serving alcohol. A bar may seem welcoming, but problem drinkers could be an embarrassment and may even leave impaired, creating possible liability issues.
Depending on the venue, you would be advised to have lighter menu offerings — “finger food” — as opposed to a sit down catered meal, which is usually both more expensive and time-consuming.
Planning a retirement party should be fun, especially if you use a committee.
Ensure the program follows an identifiable theme, but allow people the opportunity to share their memories of her contributions. Pay particular attention to how the party will end and the poignancy of closing remarks.
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