Office party etiquette to avoid 'morning after' blues

Staff drinking at an office partyIts office party season, where bosses and employees indulge in excessive alcohol consumption, committing irreversible mistakes made under the influence of both the booze and the festive atmosphere.   Trawl the internet and you’ll find surveys and stories of regretful behaviour brought on by ‘just a few drinks’.  In one office party survey, 75% of respondents regretted their indiscretions the next day and 60% changed their opinion of a colleague after witnessing their blunders.   

The top five office party regrets were:

  • Drinking too much
  • Forgetting a colleague’s name
  • Brown-nosing upper management
  • Becoming romantically involved with a colleague
  • Getting caught gossiping

Employers need to lead from the top and make a point of not creating an office party situation where inhibitions are drowned in alcohol and/or drugs.  The consequences of not taking charge could range from finding themselves at the wrong end of a sexual harassment law suit to dealing with stroppy, intoxicated employees hell-bent on driving themselves home.

Hank Lombard of PSA has the following suggestions to keep control of a potentially explosive office party situation without necessarily destroying all the fun:

  • If you don’t have a clear policy on alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace, institute one before it’s too late.  You can’t discipline someone using rules that don’t exist.  The rules need to apply to company premises as well as off-premises and anywhere that the employee is representing the company.
  • Make it clear that this policy applies to the office party too.
  • Check your insurance to see if it covers third-party liquor liability.
  • Have and enforce a drink limit at the office party; serve plenty of food; and ensure there are enough soft drinks and bottled water.
  • Lay on transport such as taxis to avoid drunken employees trying to drive themselves home after the office party and endangering others on the road.
  • Have a breathalyser on hand and encourage anyone considering driving to test themselves.
  • Designate someone as the ‘nanny’ to make sure everyone leaves with a sober driver.

“It may sound like a kill-joy approach, but it will avoid employees (and their bosses!) carelessly throwing their names away in what seemed like a good idea at the time.  Once they’ve done that it’s very difficult to look at them with the same degree of respect as before the office party,” said Hank.