Tis the Season for .... fun holiday parties and other seasonal festivities!While holiday festivities can be fun, there is little question that conduct that can be perceived as harmful occurs at company holiday parties every year. Now is the time to consider what you should be doing before this year's holiday party in order to get ahead of this issue and minimize the risks, while still encouraging your employees to have fun during the holiday season.
One step you can take is to inform employees by memo or email before the party that, while everyone is encouraged to have fun, professional behavior is mandatory; perhaps even referencing the company's sexual harassment policy and complaint procedures and other relevant policies in the memo.(You do have written policies, don't you?If not, get your company an employee handbook this year.It's the gift that keeps on giving!)This includes encouraging employees who may be giving gifts to co-workers (even secret Santas!), to choose gifts that are fun and appropriate and that do not violate company policy either.
Another step is to take action to reasonably limit alcohol consumption at the holiday party, including, but not limited to, serving food at the party that will slow the absorption of alcohol. Alcohol often causes people to be more comfortable and unfiltered with their actions, which can lead to inappropriate sexual and other harassing comments.Over-consumption can also lead to other embarrassing and potentially illegal behaviors, such as drunk driving, which may reflect poorly on the company!
Managers and executives attending these events should be told that they are expected to be setting a good example of professional behavior at the party. They also need to function as "watchdogs" and be on high alert for inappropriate behavior that may occur and to intervene to stop it. The sooner inappropriate behavior is reported, investigated, and dealt with, the less likely the company will face continuing legal exposure.
The best way to ensure that you and your employees enjoy the holidays and that everyone has fun at the company party is by planning ahead.By being proactive and addressing potential problem behaviors before they occur, you can help ensure that the holidays are happy for both your employees and the company!
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