The Christmas Party – more risk in 3 hours than in 365 days.

Christmas Parties – the dos and don’ts.

Everybody, but everybody, has a story about a business Christmas party that has gone wrong. What seems innocent and a piece of fun after a few drinks can have repercussions for the life of the company.

My uncle, who owns an engineering company, got to the point where the business had grown so large that he had to maintain his distance from the rest of the workforce, something that didn’t gel with his leadership style. It took just one individual getting lubricated enough to lose his inhibitions and tell my uncle in no uncertain terms what was wrong with him, his management style and the company generally to prove the point. Thereafter he invites the workforce to have a drink with him when they finished for the holiday period, he attends for half an hour, makes polite and measured conversation ensures there’s enough of a float behind the bar to keep the diehards going for a few hours and then makes his apologies and disappears.

I know of one dental practice owner who was effectively “blackmailed” by an employees after an ill advised kiss and cuddle during the Christmas “bash”.

Do you invite partners? My advice there is to ask the team members if they want them to tag along, in my experience most of them are happy to leave partners at home as they can inhibit the fun. They’re not part of the in-jokes and they often resent the (male) practice owner or associate who spends so much time with their (female) partner with whom they have a close working relationship no matter how professional it is. There can be a problem with the partner of the owner resenting the amount of money that is spent on a good “do” as they can see it as money that could have been spent on themselves.

It’s time for a confession – I made my first “move” on the person who is now my wife and business partner at a practice Christmas party 25 years ago. It worked and we were both sensible enough to not let things get in the way of our working relationship. But I think we are the odd ones out.

So here’s the official party (ouch) line from Peninsula.

At this time of year many businesses look at having an office party, but there are always concerns about just what will happen at these parties and to what extent the company is responsible.

There are always risks when you put people together in any form of gathering which increase when it is a social gathering and increase further if alcohol is served. Where this is a company organised event the company can be held liable for the activities of its employees if problems were reasonably foreseeable and the company has not taken all reasonable steps to prevent them. Drunken behaviour at a party where the company is providing alcohol is predictable so you need to take steps to manage this and ensure that your employees know what is expected of them. Send a memo round to all staff reminding them that as this is a company function they are expected to behave in an appropriate manner and that the company has authority to deal with any issues that occur at that event. Set out that any unacceptable behaviour, including breaches of the bullying and harassment procedures, will be subject to the company disciplinary procedure in the same way as if they occurred during normal working hours.

You should actively encourage responsible drinking. Try to limit the amount of free alcohol available to each person and ensure that bar staff are instructed to refuse to serve alcohol where appropriate. Consider allowing unlimited soft drinks to all employees but limit any free alcohol to a responsible level. It shouldn’t be necessary for your staff to get drunk in order to enjoy themselves.

While it may not be overly popular with your managers, consider having designated non-drinkers from the management team who will be responsible for dealing with any issues that occur at the party before they get out of hand. It is also worth reminding all members of staff with supervisory or management responsibilities of the dangers of getting into compromising situations with junior staff members.

Remember the dangers of anyone drinking and driving and it is worth reminding all workers of the obligation not to drink and drive. It is important to stress that anyone who drinks and drives in a company vehicle will be subject to disciplinary proceedings.

You will also need to deal with the added issue of people who overindulge at the party and then are inexplicably struck down with a totally unforeseen malady the next day and are not able to work. Clearly set out to all staff that any inability to attend work due to self inflicted illness will be treated as a conduct issue. However, by far the safest way to minimise this problem is to try and hold any party on a day when most if not all of your staff will not be required to work the following day.

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One Response

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Fretwell and Chris Baker. Chris Baker said: RT @reesthecoach: The Christmas Party – more risk in 3 hours than in 365 days. Christmas Parties – the dos and don’ts. http://bit.ly/h1E1K4 […]

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