“Tis the season! Holiday party invitations are probably flooding your inbox faster than Father Christmas invading shopping centres. Love it or hate it, there’s no avoiding the fact that Christmas is well upon us and somewhere in all those invitations is probably one for the annual work holiday party. This is a gathering that’s meant to celebrate the season and a year of hard work and commitment, but can be daunting, even for the most extrovert employee. Sure, there’s plenty of networking potential, but for many, the very thought of interacting with all those people induces flashbacks of mortifying karaoke and being trapped in a corner with Bob from accounting (sorry Bob!).
So, just how do you navigate the cocktail-infused waters of the corporate holiday party? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Don’t ignore Workplace etiquette
The office party may well be an occasion to let your hair down and even to bond and build stronger working relationships. But inevitably, there are often people who take the ‘partying’ too far by stepping over the line and landing themselves in trouble.
What may seem harmless at the time and just a bit of fun amid the tinsel and fairy lights, some behaviour may be deemed inappropriate when it comes to the cold light of day. It’s not hard to see how things might escalate when fuelled by a few festive drinks but your actions can’t be retracted the next day.
As an employer, you should look to reduce the potential for any inappropriate situations by making sure employees fully understand that company policies apply during the festivities. This may seem rather strict for a Christmas party, but it can really help to prevent any accusations of bullying, discrimination, or sexual harassment once the festive fog has lifted. And nobody wants to face disciplinary procedures just before the holidays.
Don’t Ignore the Dress Code
If you don’t want to be misinterpreted, don’t turn up as Mr or Mrs Claus at a black-tie event, ensure you “know the event.”
Think carefully about what you’re going to wear. If you stand out like a sore thumb, you’re not going to be comfortable and you’re also going to look like you didn’t get the memo.
Whatever you choose, remember: This is a business event—not a second chance at prom night.
Don’t’ forget that you’re still at Work
Most Christmas parties are off work premises and outside of regular working hours, but that doesn’t mean that employers are not liable for the actions of employees, as well as being responsible for their safety and protection.
This warning of behaviour and workplace etiquette applies to both employees and managers, but also encompasses employees who might feel more brave and reckless and use the social environment of the office party as an opportunity to speak far more freely to colleagues and supervisors than they usually would in the workplace. There have been many occasions when employees or supervisors who have vented their frustrations at senior colleagues (often littered with colourful language) end up facing dismissal the next day.
Do Drink Sensibly
While this pops up on nearly every holiday do and don’t list, it bears repeating, if you have too many of those free-flowing cocktails, you’ll probably pay for it later.
People have great memories, they may not recall where they left their keys, but if you drink too much, boy, will they remember that!
Yes, it’s a party, that doesn’t mean the evening should devolve into an episode of Workers Gone Wild. It’s still a business event, so behave accordingly.
Do be wary of Sharing Photos Taken at the Work Party
When everything goes well, and everyone has a good time, it’s only natural for people to take photos to remember what a great evening they’ve had. Inevitably, a number of these photos will end up on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. This may not seem like a big issue in the grand scheme of things, but what if your colleague didn’t want their photo on Facebook? Did you ask them? You might have some photos that you think are funny or harmless, but there’s a chance they are not something your boss or colleagues would appreciate the following day; causing embarrassment and even a significant breakdown in workplace relationships.
Many employers and organisations have social media policies that should cover instances like this, and as an employer you should make it clear to your employees that this also applies to the Office party. Neglecting to implement a social media policy could be especially harmful in situations like this, and you could find a number of grievances coming your way without a clearly defined way to address them.
Do Stick to Policies and Procedures
It might seem a little bit ‘Bah Humbug’ to be thinking about policies alongside the possibility of grievances and disciplinaries around Christmas time, but you or your employees shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re out of trouble just because it’s the festive season.
Having the appropriate policies in place and making doubly sure that employees know that these still apply during the office party, will mean that everyone can stay safe while having fun. Take a short time to make sure that everything is in order, then grab your Elf hat and join in the festive fun!
While Office parties present a wonderful chance to celebrate, make sure what your co-workers are talking about in the New Year is the event and not you.
How HCHR Can Help
If you need help and assistance in developing policies and procedures and a plan to communicate these to your employees before Christmas, then HCHR can help.