2019 is racing to the end like a rocket-propelled sleigh. Your team have worked hard all year and you plan to reward them with an office end-of-year/Christmas party, with all the trimmings.

You worry though about what might happen if things get out of hand and it is natural to be cautious. I don't want to be all boohoo about this time of the year. Office parties, if carefully organised, are not something you should be frightened of. We just had ours, and it was great to sit around the table with my colleagues, have some nice food, a couple of drinks, give gifts and take time out to relax.

I know it is hard not to worry, particularly when various social media feeds are flooded with messages of doom and gloom like: 'Ten things that should keep you awake at night about your staff Christmas party' and 'Have you calculated your risk of sexual harassment' (who knew there was such a formula).

Please don't get me wrong. As a consultant who helps organisations manage employee misconduct all through the year, I recognise that the mistletoe misadventure occurs more frequently than it should; even when everyone from the CEO to the summer clerk should know what constitutes bad behaviour. But...

There are a couple of things, at the risk of being a Grinch, you can do to ensure the risk of inappropriate behaviour is minimised at your end of year/Christmas party:

  1. Don't wait until December to educate employees about inappropriate behaviour, including the proper use of social media. This should be something you do regularly throughout the year and goes beyond pinning a copy of the Code of Conduct on the noticeboard outside the staff kitchen. Organisations that demand, monitor and enforce a safe working culture generally have a lower risk profile.
  2. If you are planning on opening the bar, regulate what is on offer and for how long. Getting into the Christmas spirit does not necessarily mean having unfettered access to the top shelf. While it might seem cool to offer the full bar menu, ask yourself is it actually necessary? This maybe a bit Grinchy, but anything free is typically appreciated and rarely does the resultant behaviour from excessive consumption of alcohol impress.
  3. Parties and Christmas are all about food, so make sure there is plenty of it. While you don't need a degustation menu, food probably should extend beyond a couple of party pies and little quiches (no-one eats the quiches anyway).
  4. Nominate a Grinch (never been a fan of the term fun police). While that is a bit tongue in cheek, someone needs to be responsible for what is going on during the party. They are not there to find out why the quiches have stopped coming out, but they are there to act if someone or something is not in line with organisational values and expectations. It does not have to always be HR either (in my opinion), but does need to be someone with sufficient authority.
  5. At the end of the night, offer employees a way home.

I know some of the above might seem about as much fun as getting the fingernail clipper in the Christmas cracker, but organisations need to be smart about this (think #metoo, reputation and people risk).

Enjoy your end of year celebrations, be safe and look forward to 2020 without an organisational hangover!

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