Tales of The Office Christmas party are often as famous (or infamous) as any other event of notoriety within the business world.
While the office Christmas party is sold as a team-building occasion that provides a platform for employees to bond and sign off the year in good spirits, those spirits can often have the opposite effect
An ill-judged bout of courage from a few too many eggnogs often results in employees regaling their colleagues with ‘home truths,’ offering management helpful suggestions and the occasional inappropriate amorous liaison.
90% of employers have had to carry out disciplinary proceedings as a result of the office Christmas party and one tenth of these cases have resulted in litigation.
It is worth remembering that the Christmas party is an extension of the work place, regardless of location. Therefore should an incident occur, the usual work procedures and policies still apply.
Sadly the risks do not stop when the party has ended. Resultant gossiping or bullying as a result of behaviour at the Christmas party can again lead to protracted disciplinary proceedings. A worrying and increasing trend is the use of social media, which will often further complicate issues surrounding harassment and bullying in the workplace. Remind staff of your social media policy (do you have a social media policy?).
Managers must communicate clearly the behaviour that is expected or perhaps more importantly not expected at these events, thus limiting the scope for employees to step outside of these guidelines or declare ignorance after the event.
However despite our attempts to ruin the fun, there is no reason why the Christmas Party cannot be a roaring success. Just be aware of the risks, apply common sense and you won’t have to add, “avoid employment tribunal” to your New Year’s resolution.