Corporate Holiday Parties: Managing Un-Merry Behaviour


With the holiday season upon us, Salopek & Associates recognizes that many companies across Canada are excited about their upcoming Holiday Parties. It is an annual event that most employees look forward to, reminisce about and always have a story or two to tell you about from the year before. Holiday parties are a great opportunity for companies to build corporate culture, engage their employees and thank them for all their hard work. They are also notorious for being the one time of year when employees let loose and, in some cases, create not-so-merry memories that follow them right into the New Year. Ring a (sleigh) bell?

Many employees and managers alike ask the question: “What is appropriate Corporate Party behavior, and when is behavior inappropriate to the point that it needs to be addressed?” Salopek & Associates’ answer means something different for each company but is the same in principle for all: employees should be expected to conduct themselves in a behavior that is consistent with the values of the organization. There is no strict definition of “appropriate” behaviour, but companies should recognize that much of the behaviour occurring at corporate parties can be managed. Here are a few suggestions for a successful holiday event:

  • Drink Tickets vs. Open Bar – Providing a set number of drink tickets and then requiring staff to purchase additional drinks themselves will reduce consumption and cost while sending a message that it is a corporate social, not a drinking contest.
  • Give Employees Something To Do – This could be a gift exchange, charitable activity or a holiday contest that encourages teamwork. Giving employees an activity other than drinking will make for a more social and sober event.
  • Make Sure Management Set Expectations and an Example – Brief managers on the purpose of a company Holiday party and outline the type of behaviour that is consistent with company values. Ask mangers to remind employees of company principles prior to the party and act accordingly to set an example at the event.
  • Clearly Communicate When The Party Is Over – It is pretty typical for employees to continue partying into the wee hours of the night, heading out to another bar or restaurant once the company party comes to an end. To ensure the company is not liable for actions or accidents that may take place during the after party, clearly communicate to all employees the timeframe for the corporate event and be sure to limit corporate spending and expenses to within this timeframe. If the company is paying for drinks or picking up the bill at the after party there is a case for any incidents that do take place to potentially be considered the responsibility of the organization.

At the end of the day, Corporate Holiday Parties are a party; there will be drinking, dancing and maybe even some flirting. Such behavior is inevitable and should be expected from employees. However, if an employee’s behavior is inappropriate to the point that they are embarrassing both the company and themselves, Salopek & Associates feels it would be worth a conversation following the event. Making sure the employee gets home safely is the first step, followed by a discussion in a professional setting that reminds the employee of company values and appropriate corporate function behavior. This isn’t a discussion about performance or how their behavior will affect their professional development, it is simply a reminder of company expectations and principles.

Should you require HR support either leading up to your holiday event or following it, Salopek & Associates is available to assist with training, employee behaviour workshops and managing challenging people issues. Please contact us if you have a question about employee behaviour or would like to discuss a specific situation.

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