What’s a CEO to do when holiday party guests drink too much?

Q: We had a holiday party where several employees probably
had too much to drink. Their guests were worse. The guests did not think
the rules applied to them because they were not employees. As the CEO
of a small business, what are my rights here? I was fearful that people
could get into an accident on the way home. We had a block of rooms
reserved but some said that they did not plan on staying at the hotel.

A: It sounds like the situation was frightening. When you invite
employees and their guests to an event, you expect everyone to use good
judgment when alcohol is involved. The rules do apply to your guests…
because they are YOUR GUESTS! You are inviting employees and their
guests and it is a company event.

You have a few choices. First you could ask the guests to leave, which
would likely cause friction between the company, the guest and the
employee. You could pay for the hotel room, which is a small investment
compared to someone getting hurt or endangering others. Or you could pay
for a cab ride home. There is some possible liability if you are the
provider of the alcohol and someone gets hurts later that evening.

Next year, think about how to avoid this situation. Let employees
know that you expect others (employees and guests) to exercise good
judgment. Re-think the holiday party. Maybe do a lunch or breakfast
instead. Or continue with a hotel event but plan to pay for rooms or cab

The tone of holiday parties is often set by the senior leaders of the
company. I remember many years ago a senior leader of my company shared
cab vouchers with me to give to others. This Vice President knew many
would be reluctant to approach him and ask for a voucher, but, if I
handed them out, the vouchers would be readily accepted. It worked.
There was no stigma and the senior team didn’t know who exactly used the
vouchers. Some stayed at the hotel but many of the vouchers were used.
It was not a wild party but some employees and guests should not have
been driving that night.

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