Having had a lovely HR Lounge Christmas night out my thoughts turned to the yearly merriment and the dangers of office parties. The tube home last night was full of noisy happy people who certainly looked as if they had been having a great time. As every HR person knows however the annual bash can have its downsides and we have all spent many bleak January's trying to sort out the disasters that can occur when alcohol and the ritual of letting your hair down gets out of hand.
Many office parties start off really well, fun, food, relaxation and a few drinks, so what happens to turn some colleagues into drunk and disorderly fools? The answer is very straightforward: it’s the booze!. I have dealt with many incidents that happened at events in organisations and every single one was alcohol fuelled. So what should HR do?
I am really anti the issuing of a policy about parties, it smacks too much of a nannying approach and really doesn’t work. A better approach is to think about what you want your office party to achieve. The best ones develop a sense of community amongst colleagues, a chance to celebrate success and to show people they are appreciated. The best ones I have attended were great fun but also avoided the disasters.
A few tips for employers:
Keep it short and sweet, if it is an after work event a couple of hours is long enough and then staff can please themselves if they want to carrying on partying later
Make sure there is lots of food and keep it coming, drinking on an empty stomach is a very bad idea
Provide soft drinks and water on all tables to encourage people to keep hydrated.
Don’t provide unlimited alcohol, set some limits
Probably most importantly is take care with your staff. If there are a couple who are starting to get a bit over the top, arrange a taxi for them to go home and avoid the horror of letting it all get out of hand. It would be lovely if everyone knew their limits but at this time of year it’s better to plan for the odd problem rather than just take a chance.
Top Tips for part goers:
Don’t drink too much, stick to two drinks maximum this is still a business event and people are watching you
Don’t confess, your lust for the new man in IT or your views about your boss, trust me this will save your career
No sucking up to the boss, it’s really inappropriate and creepy and they need a night off too
Watch the dodgy dancing, overly suggestive writhing is a bad look
Don’t raise your pay issue with your boss: oh yes some people think this is the time to ask for a raise - Wrong Wrong Wrong
Do not use social media when you have been drinking, it’s a bit like drunk texting you will feel so bad in the morning and if you criticise your company you may also be minus a job
Walk away if anyone starts a joke with the word “This is not politically correct but you will love it “
Think about what your outfit conveys, wardrobe malfunctions rarely lead to promotions unless you work in Stringfellows and for the men that really funny slogan on your T -shirt may not be quite so funny if it’s offensive or makes you look like an idiot.
I’m really not the Christmas Grinch, just very experienced in new year grievances and disciplinaries. So take my advice: have a great office party enjoy the seasons festivities and the new year will see you avoiding the walk of shame back into the office.