End the year with dignity intact

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The annual office Christmas party is something that many in HR either look forward to, or revile.

It can conjure up images of drunken co-workers, uncomfortable ‘secret Santa’ gift exchanges, cringe-worthy karaoke and awkward business blather.

The fallout can be awkward: three people giving the same colleague deodorant for Christmas sends a pretty obvious message.

Most people escape unscathed, relieved that the annual ordeal is over. But stories about employees who don't behave are passed around long after the party is over; besides the embarrassment, drunken antics can even jeopardize their careers.

Horror stories abound and some research revealed the following tales:

  • Carlos from Mexico said, “In the company party we use to break piñatas, except the last time we did it, the rope gave in and the hard piñata fell in the head of my secretary....she's was out for a month and I got stuck with the bill... happy Xmas to me.”

  • Andy from South Africa said, “Our company party in the UK once got out of hand in a Greek restaurant. It ended with the human resources manager hitting the MD over the head with a plate, not realizing that you are supposed to use specially supplied plates for this - I'm sure he woke up with a headache the next day....”

  • Peter from Australia said, “One office party that will stick in my mind for a long time to come, was the one at which I, as a senior manager, decided to do the trick of whipping a table cloth out from under a load of glasses. I had consumed a fair amount and overlooked the fact that nearly all of the glasses on the table were full! A wet and sticky evening was had by many.”

  • James Tandy from the UK said, “A few years ago in my office party, a rather large mate of mine decided to photocopy his ample backside. It all started well enough, but shortly after pressing the green button, he heard an alarming crack. Before he could get off, the entire glass cover broke trapping him inside the innards of the photocopier. Despite the fact that he had several sharp shards of glass sticking into him, he chuckled quite happily as I called for an ambulance to help pry him out.”

Knowing that Christmas parties are expected, but living in fear of the unknown, David Brown, associate, Simpson Millar LLP, said that it is undoubtedly sensible, before the party, to remind staff of behaviour that is, and is not, acceptable - without sounding like too much of a killjoy.

This could include the point that staff will still be representing the company when at the party, and a reference to your harassment or discrimination policy - as well as wishing everyone a merry Christmas!



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