Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Holiday Liability

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The Holiday Liability

Some employees may dread the office holiday party, some may look forward to it, but it’s almost a given that the company’s HR department holds its collective breath every year until the next morning. That’s because an office holiday party can be a huge liability. According to an article on the website of the Society for Human Resource Management titled, “How to Survive Your Office Holiday Party,” three out of four companies will have holiday parties in December.

Musician Andrew W.K. says, “When it's time to party, we will party hard!” and that’s probably the same line of thinking for some employees when it comes to the office holiday party. It may be difficult not to overindulge when there’s usually free food, free booze, and happy co-workers in a non-work environment, but the standard day-to-day work rules still apply.

There’s no reason not to have fun, but employees should be aware of their limits when it comes to alcohol and to remember to be on their best behavior because someone is always watching (and reporting). In this day and age of readily-accessible video cameras via smartphones, an employee’s huge faux paus can be documented at the touch of a button, then posted on social media for all to see forever. And that’s if the employee committing the gaffe is lucky. If he or she is unlucky, their recorded bad behavior could be reviewed with them the next day with HR and a supervisor.

An article on the Workforce website titled, “7 Tips to Avoid the Holiday Party Nightmare,” shares an extreme case of wrongdoing at a holiday party along with a few tips in order to keep everything under control. That same Society for Human Resource Management article doubles down on these tips and reinforces that office holiday parties can still be fun while limiting bad behavior and reducing risk.

One of the most important of these tips is to remind everyone about the company’s harassment rules or to even hold a brief company-wide meeting before the party to instill these rules. Other tips are common sense such as reviewing the company’s insurance policy on parties, closing the bar early, and scheduling the party during the work week rather than on a Friday or Saturday night. Party games should be avoided as they can require physical contact or the sharing of personal information. When it comes to alcohol, employees should be reminded to drink responsibly and management should tell the bartenders not to pour strong drinks and definitely not serve anyone who appears drunk or underage. Issuing drink tickets can also help limit the amount of alcohol consumed. Companies can go the extra mile by providing transportation, or even a hotel room, for employees who had too much to drink. To help corral bad behavior, or if a company just wants to be extra cautious, then spouses should be invited as they often tend to ensure their significant other doesn’t do anything he or she might regret. Companies can also designate a manager or two to “chaperone” and monitor the party.

When all is said and done, what is the general employee culture at your company? This typically sets the tone for the annual holiday party. Is it insanity and hangovers, mind-numbingly boring, or somewhere in-between?

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