As your staff Christmas party approaches, what is your priority? Choosing the best outfit to wear? Deciding between a traditional turkey dinner or the alternative menu option? Or working out how to avoid disgracing yourself like Sandra from accounts did last year?
End of year parties are such an important tradition. They offer teambuilding opportunities, and are seen as a reward for everything you’ve done – or put up with – over the last 12 months. But they are a minefield, as a survey from UK charity drinkaware reveals.
It shows that 26% of us have done something we regret at a works party while under the influence. Top of the list are making unwanted advances, criticising or insulting our seniors and getting aggressive with colleagues. Outrageous stuff, which we often laugh at, partly because we are relieved it wasn’t us, and partly because it provides enough gossip to keep us going through the dreary January days.
A darker side
But, for the individuals caught up in these incidents, the results can be very damaging and long lasting. Whether they are perceived as perpetrator or victim, staff involved can suffer:
- Reputational damage and embarrassment
- Lasting tension in the workplace
- Disciplinary proceedings or sacking
- Criminal or legal proceedings
- Physical and/or mental health issues
All of which is massively stressful, and cringeworthy, and potentially career limiting. Even if you only look at this from the employer’s perspective, these are not outcomes that meet the objectives of teambuilding, reward and increased morale. Quite the opposite.
So, what to do?
Let’s think this through. Here are your options, some less ‘Scroogey’ than others. Should you…
- Cancel Christmas? Probably not, it would impact morale.
- Ban alcohol? Same problem. You want people to relax and socialise.
- Limit the free booze? It wouldn’t hurt. Although you can’t police who drinks the free drink on offer, limiting the amount does still limit the damage. When something’s free there is a temptation to pig out. Not true? Then why do we see those people at all-you-can-eat buffets with plates piled nearly to the ceiling?
- Warn people they will be sacked if they misbehave? Not quite, but drawing up a clear alcohol and substance misuse policy will let staff at all levels know what is acceptable and what kind of sanctions could be imposed if they don’t comply.
- Patronise your employees by reminding them to drink responsibly? Well, yes! In any group of humans there is likely to be some unresolved competition and sexual tension. So a gentle and timely reminder that this is not the place or time to bring out your inner animal might help. You might share some useful tips on alcohol safety.
- Introduce pee tests the next day? Only in some circumstances. It’s justified if you have Health & Safety concerns about their ability to drive to work, and complete their work safely. Staff can’t be forced to take part, but your policy should account for this.
- Turn a blind eye? Not advisable. Unless you want all the negative effects that we’ve outlined above. Plus a possible court case against you for breach of the health & safety at work act… now that is one big hangover worth avoiding!
So there you have it. Wherever you sit on the Scrooge-O-Meter, I’d like to wish you happy Christmas celebrations and thank you for reading. I’m off to practice my karaoke, so that I can be laughed at for all the right reasons at our Christmas do this year.
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