Holiday Party Pitfalls

The end of the year holiday season is a time to unwind, celebrate the year’s accomplishments, and spend quality time with those close to you. If your workplace has a cohesive culture, you may be in the midst of planning your office’s holiday party. While these events can be a great way to bond with your team and reward them for all their hard work over the course of the year, you may want to take into consideration some potentially significant risks before sending out invitations.

Any environment with a supply of alcoholic beverages carries some volatility with it as people’s inhibitions are lowered and decision-making becomes impaired. While this is all in good fun when out at the bar with friends, it can present a problem when the environment is full of sensitive information usually reserved for closed-door meetings. According to a 2018 study, the average employee learns approximately seven pieces of sensitive company information during the course of an office celebration. Conversations could violate people’s privacy rights in the form of usually guarded personal information. Upcoming company news or changes in operations that are best left to leadership could slip and cause unrest if improperly divulged. Most discussions among coworkers are fairly harmless and good-natured, but even one misstep in a less-than-polished interaction can result in significant damage to a company’s operations as that information inevitably spreads from person to person.

Company dynamics are also especially dependent upon effective professional relationships between coworkers. These lines can become blurred with the aid of alcohol which can lead to some problematic behavior. Outside of individual embarrassment that can be prevalent when someone consumes a bit too much alcohol, the real problem is unscrupulous encounters that can resonate throughout an office and make everyone uncomfortable. 37% of employees witness an unexpected romantic interaction occur while at a holiday party. This type of behavior can not only lead to damaged relationships within the office but also problems at home for the coworkers involved. An over celebratory, over-served party can be a haven for inappropriate behavior that has the potential to result in a weakened sense of professionalism and even result in disciplinary action from Human Resources depending on the nature of the behavior.

There are ways to provide a safe, cordial celebration for your workplace without these potential challenges. For example, host a party without serving alcohol, instead opting for a decadent lunch or other activity that everyone can enjoy without a drink in their hand. While planning your celebration, give your employees the choice of multiple venues that do not include alcohol to appropriately gauge interest. If you do choose to have alcohol available, make sure to take the necessary measures to do so responsibly. Perhaps save money and not make the party an “open bar”. You can also designate sober individuals to make sure everyone is safe and nothing gets out of hand. For the sake of your employees and public safety, consider providing safe transportation means so that there is no risk of driving under the influence after your party.

As the holiday season comes upon us make sure that your employees know that they are celebrated, but also make them aware that celebrations should always remain appropriate. If you plan accordingly and reduce the risks of impaired decision-making, your office should have time to unwind without unraveling and everyone can enter the new year without discussing an unfortunate incident.

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