How to Keep Your Company Holiday Party From Becoming a “Ho-Ho-Uh-Oh”

Dec 8, 2021

company holiday partyIt’s that time of the year when companies are beginning to plan for their workplace holiday parties. Employers recognize that holiday parties or some sort of end-of-year celebrations are a good way to foster employee morale, provide networking opportunities and involve the employee’s spouse or significant other with the organization. The fact is, a company holiday party, in general, is primed for potential HR problems. While the intent might be good, it’s a possible minefield requiring some planning and forethought.

16 Company Holiday Party HR Tips

Here are some tips so that your company holiday party does not turn out to be a scene from “The Office”:

  1. Give a few people the responsibility of keeping an eye on things, just in case anyone misbehaves.
  2. Put emphasis on activities rather than drinking. It doesn’t have to be all about the bar if you include activities like dancing, awards, raffles, or karaoke.
  3. Consider an alcohol-free party. There’s nothing wrong with a fancy coffee bar party or ice cream socials.
  4. Limit the amount of alcohol by issuing ticket stubs or having the last call one hour before the party ends.
  5. If the party results in any kind of complaint, take it seriously. The party is an extension of the workplace and the employer needs to address the problem immediately.
  6. Embrace and celebrate diversity. Try not to link the party to a religious holiday.
  7. Choose the venue wisely, avoiding a location that might be seen as sexist, for example.
  8. Include spouses and significant others in the invitation.
  9. Review liability insurance issues; most don’t cover alcohol-related incidents.
  10. Don’t hang mistletoe at a company function.
  11. Check the music playlist so it’s work-appropriate. “Baby Got Back” might not be the best choice for a company party.
  12. Remind managers that they are on duty.
  13. Send out a memo about the company’s rules regarding social media.
  14. Remind employees of the company’s policies on discrimination and harassment.
  15. Refrain from company-sponsored pre-parties and post-parties.
  16. Provide alternative transportation for persons who have too much to drink.

Company Holiday Parties Gone Wrong

Many stories have been shared about company holiday party disasters. How bad can it get?  Here are some real-life examples:

  1. One manager has too much to drink and hits another manager over the head with a beer bottle. Blood was everywhere, both the ambulance and the police were called.
  2. A manager, his assistant, and others go back to a hotel room to partake in illegal drug use. The assistant overdoses on cocaine and is hospitalized.
  3. A manager and employee leave the party to have sex in a nearby hotel. The employee files a harassment claim, stating that she felt her job would be threatened if she had said no.
  4. A partner has one too many and begins to whip all the ladies at the party with a novelty gift that was handed out at the party. Three women file a class action suit with pictures of marks on their arms from the “whipping.”

Employers see holiday parties as a way to recognize employees’ hard work at the end of the year. This recognition is especially important in tough economic times. But with the right amount of planning, your holiday party can boost morale without putting your company at risk and can indeed remain jolly.

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