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April 23, 2014

The DOs and DON’Ts of Company Holiday Parties

Holiday parties can be a company’s best day of the year — or its worst. Usually, it falls somewhere in the middle, but all executives and human resources personnel need to make sure to avoid some key risks to ensure their day of merriment doesn’t turn into disaster. The following four guidelines from Jay Starkman of Engage PEO will help.

1. Keep the Festivities Non-Denominational

It is better to have a Holiday Party than a Christmas Party, a Hanukkah party, or a party that recognizes any specific holiday. This way, all employees can feel involved and the Company avoids projecting the image that it prefers one religion over any others.

2. The Trouble With Alcohol 

As we all know, alcohol can lower inhibitions and lead to questionable judgment, which can be an unfortunate combination.

So how should you attempt to manage these inherent risks?

The easiest way to avoid the potential problems that come with alcohol consumption is to have a party where alcohol is not served. This may be an easier decision to justify if the party is held during the day, as opposed to the evening, when drinking is generally more socially acceptable. But if the company does decide to serve alcohol at the holiday party, consider hiring a professional bartender instead of permitting employees to serve themselves. This person can manage the amount of alcohol in each drink and notify a manager if an employee appears to have had too much to drink. Managers should also be alert and aware of any employee who may be overindulging.

Additionally, alcoholic options can be limited to wine and beer, and the company should be sure to provide plenty of nonalcoholic beverage alternatives. Food should be available throughout the party when alcohol is served. You can also consider utilizing a drink ticket system to limit individuals’ consumption.

Most importantly, consider stopping service before the party officially ends. Cutting off the service of alcohol at least one hour before the end of the party may lessen the impact of the alcohol on those who consumed during the party before they depart. It is also a good idea to continue food service during this time period.

3. Prevent Inappropriate Behavior

When workplace and social interactions intersect, there is a possibility that inappropriate behavior may result. It is a good idea to take steps to prevent harassment or similar inappropriate conduct.

One thing to consider is inviting spouses or significant others to the party. Employees may be more likely to be on their best behavior in front of these individuals.

Secondly, no mistletoe! This holiday symbol is an invitation for employees to engage in behavior which is inappropriate for the workplace (and, by extension, the company holiday party).

Be sure to remind all employees that the company’s workplace standards apply at the holiday party – harassment remains strictly prohibited. Make sure that everyone know that, even though the idea is to have a good time, misconduct at or after the party, including harassment, can result in disciplinary action. Also, remind managers that they must enforce Company policies at the party, even if it is held after work and away from the workplace itself. It is also important to remind managers that they must lead my example.

4. Enjoy Your Holiday Party!

This is supposed to be fun. Makes sure everything is on the up and up, but remember the ultimate goal. The team building and camaraderie built while co-workers get to know one another outside of the office can be invaluable to creating a great work environment.

Risk Management Magazine and Risk Management Monitor. Copyright 2014 Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Risk Management Magazine  is the premier source of analysis, insight and news for corporate risk managers. RM strives to explore existing and emerging techniques and concepts that address the needs of those who are tasked with protecting the physical, financial, human and intellectual assets of their companies. As the business world and the world at large change with increasing speed, RM keeps its readers informed about new challenges and solutions....

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