Office christmas parties – avoiding a festive faux pas

Sarah Cooper

By Sarah Cooper

25 Nov 2016

Tis' the season to be jolly. But what is too jolly when it comes to christmas party conduct? This annual celebration is a great way for employers to thank their employees for their hard work. It's an opportunity for colleagues to relax and unwind, to get to know each other better and form stronger working relationships. So why do they cause so many problems?

Kari Shea 237489 Unsplash

Research shows a staggering nine out of ten employers have experienced HR horrors following an office christmas party, with inappropriate behaviour resulting in employees facing either a disciplinary or even dismissal. So how can we stop our office Christmas parties turning into an HR hangover but maintain the element of fun? Here’s five tips to consider to make your office christmas party an event to remember – for all the right reasons:

1. Remember you are representing your company at your christmas party

Although an opportunity to celebrate, it should not be forgotten that the christmas party is an extension of the workplace. Each individual's behaviour reflects upon your company and your brand so standards of behaviour should be maintained.

Advice to employers: A great way to reinforce this message is prior to the event; employers can include gentle reminders of the standards of personal conduct that is expected to be upheld by each attendee. Include company policies and procedures or examples of behaviours that are acceptable and those that aren’t any grey areas. This message can be included in party invitations or by separate meetings. It is important to get the balance right so you are instilling the importance of responsible behaviour but not destroying the element of fun.

2. Don't drink too much

Over 90% of negative behaviour at an office christmas party is the result of drinking too much alcohol. Many of us will be excited at the prospect of a free bar, but it is up to us to drink responsibly and not take excessive advantage.

Advice to employers: Avoid providing unlimited drinks. A few drinks provided by the boss is a nice way to reward employees for all of their hard work – but offering a free bar may be an invitation for trouble. Find a happy medium by providing a few drinks per employee; people are less likely to drink excessively if they are paying.

3. Be polite

Offices are full of gossip – making a good impression in front of colleagues means watching your language and keeping personal or embarrassing stories to yourself. Watch out for your use of social media – particularly if your networks include colleagues, suppliers or clients.

Advice to employers: Depending on the size of your organisation and your culture, you may want to appoint a willing manager to subtly keep an eye on potential troublemakers. Again this depends on your organisation, you need to strike a good balance so people don’t feel like they are being policed.

4. Hold the party away from your office

Modern workplaces often include social spaces that can be used for company presentations and parties. But good office interiors are expensive and you don’t want to risk any costly damage or personal injuries.

Advice to employers: Have your party somewhere else. You will you save yourself the potential for personal injury claims and costs for replacing damaged equipment. Also, people tend to relax when they are out of the workplace environment, so you may even get a better turnout. You might like to have your first drink in the office and toast another successful year of business before heading out.

5. Have fun

Make sure you enjoy yourself. Use your common sense and don’t get hung up on rigid policies and procedures. Putting too much emphasis on what is and isn’t allowed takes all the fun out of your christmas party and spoils the whole point of having one. Enjoy yourself in a responsible manner.

Advice to employers: Make sure you are taking sensible precautions but don’t go overboard, you want to encourage your employees to relax and thank them for their hard work.

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