The holiday party season is here which, while often fun, can bring both companies and employees a myriad of potential problems. Not to suggest that holiday parties are a bad idea but a considerable amount of planning and thinking needs to be done to minimize the potential for legal liabilities and career suicide.
Parties where alcohol is served present the biggest risks with potential for excessive drinking which can lead to car accidents, sexual harassment and in some cases, even drunken brawls. As legal issues regarding company party liability differ from state to state, a good place to start is to familiarize yourself with your state’s laws and proceed from there. Below are some tips for both companies and employees to help keep holiday parties fun and safe.
- Remind employees through both verbal and written communication that all company work rules and policies will still be enforced. Let them know excessive drinking will not be tolerated.
- One idea is to hold the party at a location that does not have a license to serve alcohol. If alcohol is served, consider making it beer and wine only and devise a system (drink tickets, etc.) that limit the amount of drinks an employee can have. Perhaps serve alcohol only for a certain time period (7 – 9pm).
- When employees are in the presence of their spouse or significant other, they tend to be on better behavior so it’s not a bad idea to invite them as well.
- If alcohol is served, pre-print lists of taxi services and have them available for those who may have had too much to drink. If someone has obviously had too much, insist on getting and paying for a cab ride home.
- Companies with employees below the legal drinking age run a severe risk of liability if minors are mixing with drinking adults.
- Instruct managers that they should monitor their staff and intervene if an excessive drinking problem is noted. Bartenders should also be advised before hand to alert managers if they detect a problem. By no means allow employees to serve alcohol.
- Workday hours parties have far less risk of potential problems than evening parties.
- Attendance at parties should never be mandatory and make sure they don’t coincide with any religious holidays.
- Getting drunk at a company party is one of the quickest ways to derail your career. It’s also one of the top causes employees get fired. Be smart. Don’t do it.
- Don’t bring the wild-date-from-hell. Who you bring to the company party is an extension of you. Make sure that person represents you well.
- No matter how much you may be pining away for someone at the office, the company party is not the time or place to make your move. Besides, dating coworkers is a disastrous idea anyway.
- Dress appropriately. If you wouldn’t wear it to work—don’t wear it to the company party. This is not the time to show everyone how hot you are in your best club clothes!
- Don’t complain about work. Loose lips sink ships and you’re sure to be overheard by someone that you don’t want to be overheard by. The company party is not the time to solve any issues you’re having with co-workers, supervisors or your work load. If you’re genuinely unhappy at work and not up to socializing with co-workers, just don’t go.
Company parties can be a very fun time when employees bond and get to know each other better. They can have a very positive effect on the workplace and workplace relationships. But it’s important for both companies and employees to be smart. Remember someone is always watching– and these days, most likely taking pictures or a video. Don’t be the star of the video everyone is laughing about on Monday.