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Avoiding a HR Hangover after the Office Christmas Party

The holiday season has arrived! Otherwise known as the season of embarrassment; drunken karaoke performances; increased alcohol consumption; and when you suddenly develop a bad case of verbal diarrhoea and say things to your colleagues that you immediately regret. In other words, it is as if the entire workforce suddenly turn into Bridget Jones.

While the looming Christmas party may bring on feelings of joy and excitement for employees, it can’t help but bring a feeling of dread to many HR professionals. Year after year, employees seem to forget that though the Christmas party is a celebration and a social event, it is still an extension of the workplace. This means that harassment; bullying; and discrimination are all still off limits.

Employment law does not excuse any behaviour that occurs at Christmas parties, which means that the following Monday can sometimes result in a very busy (and grumpy) HR department distributing warnings or worse, dismissals.

So, what can HR and management do to prevent these issues without appearing like the Grinch who stole Christmas?

1. Reiterate company policies prior to the event. It is important for staff to be aware that all policies, including drug and alcohol; anti-bullying; anti-discrimination; and anti-harassment policies continue to be in effect during the event. Carbon Group also make sure that we reiterate the social media policy, as staff seem to forget that the same rules still apply when posting photos or comments about the Christmas party.

2. Ensure your company has a clear grievance resolution process in place. Though it is hoped no one will complain, HR must remain realistic. Carbon Group has a good grievance process in place to ensure any issues are be dealt with swiftly and effectively.

3. Do not have any work-related conversations that result in someone “over promising and under delivering”. We’ve all been there when we have had a bit too much to drink and make a promise to someone while in our joyful state. However, this can cause a real headache if the situation involves a manager promising an employee a pay rise for example. These sorts of conversations are undoubtedly best left to have when at the workplace (and sober)!

4. Unfortunately, someone needs to be the ‘parent’ in this party situation and refrain from alcohol to control the situation. This may involve cutting heavily inebriated employees off; ensuring employees get home safely; or diffusing any disputes that may arise.

5. Finally, don’t be fooled in thinking that once the Christmas party is over that that means the drama is also over. No, for there is now the post-event office debrief that follows the week after. While this may be some harmless chatter by the water cooler to retell tales, it could also be some serious gossip about a manager being flirty and inappropriate with some of the staff, thus leading to an office uproar and the onslaught of sexual harassment claims. Carbon Group encourages HR and management to nip these things in the bud by prohibiting vicious gossip in the workplace and thoroughly investigating any issues that are brought to light, should they be true.

The key for HR departments in the situations is to find the balance between acting like Bridget Jones and acting like the Grinch. Therefore, by following these easy steps you can ensure that your Christmas party goes off without a hitch and without you fulfilling the stereotype that HR professionals aren’t fun!

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