Let the Parties Begin – or Not!


Tis the season to be jolly…well not so fast.

Making too jolly at company holiday parties can certainly bring its share of headaches. Just listen to what my friend and HR colleague went through after her company’s last holiday party.

Nicole (not her name) was just back from a great holiday vacation when not one but three very unhappy employees landed in her office. They proceeded to tell her that Mr. BIG’s (fill in any boss’ name) behavior at the company holiday party was way out of line and if she didn’t do something about it, they were going to file a sexual harassment complaint.

They said not only did he get too jolly with his alcohol consumption, but he spent most of the evening making lewd comments that were overheard by their spouses and when one of them tried to leave, he reached over and touched her inappropriately. Needless to say, Nicole’s happy holiday mood went right out the door along with any productive work plans she had for the next coming weeks. 

What a mess!

Ask any HR manager who’s had to deal with this type of holiday party aftermath and they’ll tell you it is definitely NOT one of the most wonderful times of the year…Bah Humbug! 

So to keep this from happening at your next holiday party we thought we’d toss out a few ideas to keep the good cheer in your holidays and help your HR Manager from becoming the Grinch.

  • Hold your holiday party during the work day and skip the alcohol altogether. Pay for the time your employees enjoy the social event and while you’re at it, give them rest of day off with pay. Now that’s a party celebration!

  • If you’re going to hold your holiday party after work hours, make certain all of your employees know attendance is voluntary. Open the party to include a guest. That will make it more celebratory and less mandatory.

  • Send out a written (email) invitation that gives your employees a few guidelines about the appropriate party dress code.

  • If alcohol is going to be served, keep it limited. Issuing drink tickets or “beverage gift cards” is an easy way to maintain some control and to reduce your liability.

  • Ask a couple of trusted senior managers to act as “party chaperones.” Give them the responsibility to keep an eye out for those who may get carried away with making merry.

  • Contract with a taxi or Uber service to provide free rides home for those who are unable to drive safely on their own.

  • Make certain all of your management staff has a clear understanding of the company’s conduct expectations and ensure that they are prepared to step in quickly should someone forget.

  • And last but not least, although holiday parties are generally a great company social event and a time to bond with employees, it’s NOT the time for management to get “too social” with anyone. Remember poor Nicole.

Regardless of how you decide to commemorate the holiday season please stay safe (including your bottom-line) and make this a happy time for everyone…even the ole Grinch in HR.