Holiday Party or HR Nightmare?

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“It’s just a party where our staff can let their hair down! Don’t take it so seriously! The hot tub will be fine.”

Not long ago that was the holiday party sentiment. Companies wanted a festive atmosphere where the employees and management could get together socially and enjoy each other.

Today, employers know better. They have seen employees and managers enjoying too much holiday “cheer” and becoming either physically or verbally inappropriate. Often times ending up in the HR office in the form of a sexual harassment compliant.

Decrease stress this holiday season:

  • Do not have an open bar for the party. If you want to provide a drink, hand out a drink ticket when folks arrive. Or eliminate alcohol all together.
  • Invite significant others to the party. Often the presence of a spouse or significant other curtails undesirable behavior.
  • Hold the event off site. Having the party at your place of business increases your liability. Before holding a holiday party anywhere, check with your insurance agent to ensure you have the proper coverage should someone get into an accident due to alcohol served at your party.
  • Offer alternative transportation. Should someone have too much to drink, be ready to call a cab or have a designated driving team available to drive the employee home. It is best to have two people, one male and one female, to drive folks home if it becomes necessary. This mitigates the risk of inappropriate behavior being claimed by an employee.
  • Prepare your managers in advance. Have a conversation with your managers about appropriate versus inappropriate behavior at the party. Let them know that even though it is a social event, if their behavior is inappropriate with an employee, sexual harassment can still be claimed. They can enjoy each other’s company, however, they need to understand the importance of staying professional at the party.
  • Have an agenda for the party. One of the best holiday parties I have attended involved a slide show highlighting the accomplishments of the year. The slide show was put to music and the employees’ pictures were shown doing what they do everyday. The families who attended loved the show and enjoyed seeing their loved ones at work.

Holiday parties should bring your staff together to celebrate the year’s accomplishments. These tips will help you enjoy yourself and not face a nightmare the following day.

Happy Holidays from CourtSide® Consulting!