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Holiday Parties: Just Add Alcohol For Potential Mayhem

by on
in Human Resources

Any time alcohol is available at holiday parties, the potential for employee misbehavior increases. Obviously, not serving alcohol at the party would likely solve that problem. But many employers still opt for cocktails. So, if your organization plans to serve alcohol at this year's party, limit it by utilizing the following tactics.

  • Take the focus off of drinking. Promote the other aspects of the party, such as the menu and entertainment, so employees can look forward to the food and dancing, rather than the liquor selection.
  • Accept cash only, or tickets, please. Require employees to pay for drinks. Have unlimited free non-alcohol beverages available for employees who don't drink and to encourage drinkers to save their money. Or consider utilizing a drink-ticket system in which each employee is entitled to two drinks on the house, and no more.
  • Time it right. Choose when to have alcohol available, either pre-dinner or during dinner only. If you do choose to have the bar open during the entire party, always make sure it closes at least one hour before the party ends.
  • Choose alcohol and food wisely. Serve only beer and wine, not hard liquor. Limit the amount of salty, greasy, or sweet foods because they tend to increase thirst.
  • Invite families and/or clients and vendors. The presence of employees' family members or other work-related colleagues should hopefully encourage employees to be on their best behavior.

Although you have the best intentions for limiting alcohol consumption, there is still the chance employees may get out of hand with their behavior or be too impaired to drive. Here's how to prevent those situations from happening.

1. Designate managers to monitor employees' behavior. They should look out for: how much employees drink and whether they have a safe ride home; employee interactions, especially those who become "too friendly" with each other or if tempers rise; any other employee activities that may be dangerous to themselves and others.

2. Cover all transportation bases by: 1) arranging for a taxi or car service for employees; 2) asking employees to designate a driver ahead of time, such as a family member to take them to and from the party if they plan to drink; 3) suggesting that employees carpool with each other so that those who drink can ride with those who don't. Just be careful not to make employees feel like that is a requirement.

3. Prepare for the possibility of pre-partying. It's safe to assume that some employees will start the party on their own before they arrive to the actual party, so to minimize that possibility:

  • Impose a rule that employees who arrive drunk will not be admitted to the party, and a pre-designated driver (e.g., an employee-volunteer or a taxi) will take the intoxicated employee home.
  • If the party is after work, arrange for free transportation from your company's site to the party site and back, so employees don't have the chance to hit happy hour beforehand.
  • Remind employees about your company's rules of behavior, public intoxication, fighting, harassment, etc., that will be enforced at the party by circulating e-mails and memos a few days before the party. Trying to explain this to an employee who is already drunk when they show up to the party will not work.

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