Office Party Season — It’s That Time Again

Mercer PeoplePro Blog Office Party

It’s That Time Of The Year  – Office Party Season

Hosting an office party is a great way to show your appreciation for the team — so why do they sometimes end up as an employee relations issue?

Halloween, traditional December holiday parties or even the summer solstice, whatever works for your company can become a great tradition. But don’t forget, actions at company-sponsored events can also lead to disciplinary actions and even terminations.

We have all heard of the office party where someone becomes unruly, insults the company and/or the CEO and ends up losing their job. It is a good idea to think through how much, if any, alcohol will be served, policies for providing a car service and/or hotel room for those unable to drive home and even who will be responsible for paying.

Although you want your team to have a great time and feel appreciated, an office party, and any outcomes, are the responsibility of the company. So, just because one member of your team decides to act like an — ahem — to act inappropriately, whether or not it is because they drank too much, it is the company’s problem.

Things to think about

  • Make sure the venue is accessible to all employees
  • Limit the amount of alcohol people are allowed to consume. Make sure there are lots of non-alcoholic options. Even if the party is not on company property, the company is still liable for the results of drinking at a company-sponsored event.
  • Have a process defined regarding car service and possible hotel rooms for individuals who may have had too much to drink
  • If you are having children attend, consider not serving alcohol
  • Make sure there is food at the event – what is a party without snacks anyway
  • Make sure you clearly communicate expectations of behavior at all company sponsored events
  • Review your policy’s, handbook and other communications to ensure they clearly state expectations
  • If there is a complaint regarding someone’s behavior, treat it as you would with any complaint – formal or otherwise
  • If you have a speaker or entertainment, just because this is a party, it is not an excuse for anything that might be considered off color or insulting
  • Encourage your team to join the fun, but don’t make it a requirement.


There is risk involved in day-to-day business that you take on in an informed way. Sometimes that means buying extra insurance, having some specific policies or encouraging certain behaviors over others. It is the same when you have an office get together.

Mitigate risk by having policies and explicit expectations published that you can use to help manage situations. Don’t forget to enjoy the time you have set aside for the team to interact in a different way. If you are ready for the small percentage of staff that might be inappropriate, you can free yourself up to focus on and enjoy everyone else.

HR Expertise On Demand

Feeling overwhelmed? Need some help devising and implementing policies? Don’t worry, when it comes to procedural manuals and employee handbooks we’ve practically written the book. Schedule an appointment today at Mercer PeoplePro — we’re standing by and ready to assist.

Written by Mercer PeoplePro Growing Your Business specialist, Ruth Baylis

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