Holiday Parties – That’s the Spirit!

Yes, it’s that time of year again when holiday parties abound. I haven’t been to a honest-to-goodness office holiday party in years – it’s no fun partying with your boss when in this case your boss is yourself  🙂 – but I have been to a couple of academic holiday gatherings. Those were tame; the hottest thing on the party menu was the onion rings. Maybe that was because we were in a public restaurant…

Anyway, I was reading a couple of articles from law firms about setting ground rules for employees attending holiday parties. What party poopers. Then it occurred to me. Some employees just get out of their professional zone and enter the la-la land of “let’s get crazy, after all, it’s a party!”

I’m all for having fun. I’m all for having great food and drink. And, I’m all for having a cocktail or two available for people to enjoy during the office hour party. After all, that’s what makes holiday celebrations particularly enjoyable: we get to kick loose and do things at work that we never get to do during the rest of the year.

Unfortunately, some people take it a tad too far. pointed out workers may be having a little bit too much fun at these events. Research by Harris Interactive and Caron Treatment Centers found 64% of Americans say they’ve called in sick or know someone who has because they had a hangover the day after the office get-together. More than 50% said they were either hung over or knew someone who was who came to work the next day anyway. Needless to say, work performance suffers if anything manages to get done at all.

Does this mean that all parties should be on Friday afternoon or alcohol-less then?

Well, not necessarily. What I think it means is that we just have to recognize that while we have cultural, religious and other diversity in our inclusive organizations, we also have diversity in alcohol consumption and tolerance. Some people can handle it and some people can’t.

Employees should be held accountable for managing their alcohol consumption and the behavior, professional and otherwise, that can result from over imbibing. Regardless of who plans and executes the holiday function, HR professionals should offer up some alternatives that will help to create an environment of festivity and celebration, without compromising individual and organizational values. Here’s a couple of ideas:

  • Host a stress-free holiday party by changing the de-stressor from alcohol to a chair massage.
  • Engage in an activity, such as inter-office Olympics with a Wii on a large screen, or do something like bowling where people can either go home after or stay and party on their own afterwards.
  • Adopt a charity.  Have each person come up with ideas for supporting that charity and then spend a day executing those ideas.
  • Forgo the party completely and give each employee a holiday bonus of what would have been spent on their share of the party costs.

If you do have a party, ensure the fun doesn’t compromise the office:

  • Ask employees  to plan for their transportation home in advance if they intend to drink alcohol.
  • Implement a designated driver program or offer free cab fare.
  • Use drink tickets to limit consumption (also helps keep the bar tab under control)
  • Offer non-alcoholic drinks or create fun theme-based nonalcoholic mocktinis or mocktails.
  • Serve heavy appetizers or a meal to help slow the absorption of alcohol.
  • Close the bar a hour before the event ends.

Now, let the celebratory silliness – oops, holiday spirit – begin!


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