The #MeToo movement may be affecting the annual company holiday party tradition, according to a recent study quoted on HRDive. Even though consumer and corporate confidence in the economy is higher than last year, the amount of companies planning to host a holiday party is as low as it was in 2009. The reason? Alcohol, the potential for inappropriate behavior and the liability of the HR department and the company throwing the shindig. While 57% of employees have seen their co-workers drunk, many businesses are considering a way to make the annual gathering less...wild.
Should your company have a holiday party? Let's offer some ideas to avoid bad behavior.
HR Guide to Company Holiday Parties
Talk About Harassment
One of the best ways to nip workplace harassment, even when it occurs at after-hours corporate-sponsored events, is to talk about it openly. When there is no shame assigned to speaking up and when those who experience harassment know they have a safe place to talk about what happened to them, it allows this behavior to be exposed. Those who would attempt to sexually harass, bully or intimidate their colleagues know that they will be called out and will be less likely to try.
Party at the Office
Another option provided in the study is to host the party during company hours and invite family. A G or PG-13 rated event can still include plenty of food, limited or no alcohol and time to honor employees and the families they love. Many employees suffer more stress during the holidays, according to an Accountemps survey from 2017, because they're trying to balance family obligations with holiday events. Hosting the event during the day relieves some of this stress and could help create a workplace culture of family and inclusiveness.
Be Responsible with Alcohol
If your business is going to host an off-site, after-hours holiday event, there are options to be more responsible about serving alcohol. For instance, hire professional bartenders who are insured and know not to serve minors or those who are already inebriated. Include dinner so that guests will have something other than alcoholic beverages in their system. Provide a limit on what each person can consume with drink tickets or only serving one drink with dinner. Offer tasty mocktails and non-alcoholic choices that are festive and fun. Have transportation arrangements so those who are drinking, or who perhaps began drinking before the party, don't drive while intoxicated.
Hold Employees Accountable
When the vice-president is walking around the party with mistletoe, someone needs to pull him or her aside and let them know it's not okay. Employees who attend the holiday party must understand that they are responsible for their behavior, just as they would be at the office during work hours. Inform all invitees that any complaints from the holiday party will be taken seriously, documented and investigated. Again, if employees understand that harassment or inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated, they will be less likely to act.
Know Whom You've Hired
While a background check cannot determine if an employee gets too friendly after a few drinks, verification of their background, including previous employment, can be helpful. In fact, some inappropriate behavior may have already revealed itself prior to ingesting any alcohol. Some companies are choosing rolling or continuous background checks on current employees to avoid any claims of negligent hiring or misconduct, including sexual harassment. Pre-employment screening can give your business an idea of who your new hire was. Screening regularly, after hiring, will also inform of any new activity that could be harmful to your company or your employees.
If you're considering a holiday party for your employees, you still have options for making it safer and fun. The holidays are a great time to remind your staff what they mean to you. Talking openly about what's acceptable, at work and at after hours events, is one of many ways to honor employees and reduce the risk of any harm.
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