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Inviting Your Ex (Employee) to the Holiday Party


My colleague Rachael King is guest-blogging here today. Here’s her blog:

Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu famously said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I was reminded Monday night why it’s a good idea to keep ex-employees even closer still.

After dinner, Bryan Mason rose to give a toast at Adaptive Path’s year-end party at the Supperclub in San Francisco. The former chief operating officer of the design and strategy consulting firm raised his glass and said, “Where are all the quitters?” About 7 former employees raised their hands. Mason went on to say that although he’d moved on, he was still happy to be part of the company’s extended family and to be invited to the party.

A good many companies are cutting back on holiday parties and even scrapping them entirely. But, I’d venture to guess that even in the best of times not many companies invite former workers. But at the Adaptive Path party, about 10% of the guests on Monday night were former employees and their dates. My husband Dan Saffer left Adaptive Path in September to start a product design firm Kicker Studio that now does some contracting work for the company.

“Because we’re a design consultancy, it makes good business sense for us to stay close to key former employees who have moved on – you never know where that next project referral will come from,” says Adaptive Path president Jesse James Garrett. This year, to keep costs down, the company held the party on a Monday night early in the month which gave the company access to a nicer venue at a better price than last year.

Four years ago, when we attended our first company holiday party, it was a much more modest affair: Indian take-out food served at the office. In comparison, Monday night’s party at the Supperclub was a bit more hip – our male server wore white hot pants and looked like he stepped right out of Studio 54. But both events shared the same spirit of generosity and fun.

Maybe that’s why the former employees keep coming back. A few tables away, former CEO Janice Fraser listened while new CEO Michael Meyer gave his toast and jokingly complained that nobody told him to wear a tie – practically the only day of the year that anyone dons a tie at the company. Ryan Freitas knew the drill and was wearing a tie. This was his fourth year-end party even though he left in June 2008 to become director of product design at Plinky, a new social media application that is still under wraps. Sitting across from me, Lane Becker, an original co-founder of Adaptive Path and now the president of a firm called Get Satisfaction that does online customer service, leaned in and commented that he liked the new CEO.


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