Yes, it’s time for all those workplace holiday parties…and, they’re fraught with traps that can turn a fun, collegial time into a disaster. So, here are some things to keep in mind for a great, safe and fun time:
- Make it a Holiday Party: By now you’ve likely figured out that a party sponsored by the employer needs to be a “holiday party” – not a Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza party (unless you work in a religious organization). Yes, I know it’s lame. And no, no one’s trying to do away with Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanza for that matter…). But, if you’re the employer, keep it generic. You don’t want to get back to work after the New Year to find a religion discrimination complaint on your desk.
- Make it voluntary: There may well be employees who, for whatever reason, would rather not party with you. Let them make that choice, and don’t give them a bad time if they choose not to join you. If you’re giving everyone who attends the party the afternoon off to do so, let employees who choose not to attend leave work if they want to.
- Watch the alcohol (and, in Washington, the marijuana): The party host (in this case, the employer,) can be held liable if a drunk (or stoned) party-goer leaves, gets in the car, and crashes into something or someone. Don’t let people leave and drive impaired: arrange for designated drivers or taxis ahead of time, and make sure people use them.
- Gift exchanges can be great fun – but limit the amount people should spend and, if you have any reason at all to think that even small amounts of expenditures will be hard on participants, make it a white elephant gift exchange (everyone has something at home they’d like to get rid of!) It can be just as much (or more) fun – and isn’t that the point?
- Make sure everyone’s comfortable: impaired brains sometimes think that behavior that would never be acceptable at work is acceptable at a work party, but that’s not so. If it would be considered harassment at work, it can result in a complaint if it happens at a work party. No stolen kisses, pinches or hugs allowed, no off-color jokes, either.
- Make sure the rules are clear ahead of time. Let people know what to expect (food, alcohol, gifts, attire, behavior…) and you’ll all have a great time celebrating!
Happy Holidays to all, and a Happy New Year as well from Daphne and Amy, your Workplace Insiders.