Holiday party — avoiding a bacchanalian

posted in: Job Doc Blog | 0

Q:  We are planning a year-end company event.  Before I joined this company many years ago, we had some problems with alcohol-fueled behavior at several company outings.  I am concerned since I am now planning these events.  I will catch some grief if that repeats itself.  How can I make sure that our holiday event is fun, but we don’t behave like we are attending a college party?

A: Every year company leaders struggle with this decision.  You want employees to enjoy the event, but you also don’t want to create liability for the company.  Further you want employees to make good choices and behave responsibly.

Some guidelines:

  1. Send out a “save the date” now so employees are able to calendar it. Be clear whether it is employees only event, or employees can invite a guest.
  2. Think about how alcohol might or might not be present. Those who abstain from alcohol should have options.  If alcohol is being served, make sure that you use bartenders trained in spotting unusual or impaired behavior.  Sam from Accounting should not be drinking wine and serving alcohol at the same time.
  3. Incorporate food into the event. Serving alcoholic drinks only are a recipe for a disaster.
  4. Ask the leadership team to role model appropriate behavior. If the CEO is drinking shots at the bar, others will soon follow.  Sometimes actions speak louder than words.
  5. Think about transportation at the end of the event. Will you have ride shares or taxi vouchers available?  Is the MBTA an option?
  6. If possible, contact a local hotel and ask for a reduced rate in case some opt for that as a way to avoid impaired driving.
  7. Ask management to “talk up” responsible behavior before the event.
  8. Some of our clients have interns or students, who are not legally able to drink alcohol in Massachusetts. Think about this in advance.

Finally, harassment claims are sometimes tied back to alcohol served at company events.  Kudos to you for thinking about this event in a proactive way.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.