So Rudolph the red nosed reindeer is back in town, the venue is booked, and the Christmas cheer is about to get underway. The drinks will soon be flowing, and the release of a year of work stresses and occasional issues they give rise to may be soon to arrive. For those who don’t have their own HR grinch, we thought we would share some simple advice to avoid those post-chrissy-party HR hangovers.
While it is a time-honoured Australian tradition to hold a decent Christmas party to thank staff for their hard work, to build team morale and connections, when the party no longer achieves these goals it’s time for a re-think, and when issues arise post-party it’s too late to triage them.
Simple reminders for effective pre-Christmas party risk management:
Beforehand – undertake due diligence on the venue – ensure that the venue is fit for purpose and consider additional risks associated with venues that are in inaccessible or dangerous locations or harbour cruises (which, for some reason, always seem to be in a wonderful class of their own).
In practical terms – think about how will the venue implement responsible service of alcohol during the evening?
Ensure the theme is appropriate and not likely to cause offence nor exclude.
Establish clear start and finish times – draw a line on when the official festivities finish, and communicate that clearly.
The good behaviour email
- The workplace equivalent of a safety demonstration on a plane. Feel free to inject some humour into it, but make sure you don’t trivialise or obscure the importance of the underlying messages. Don’t forget to include:
- workplace policies will continue to apply;
- the start and finish time of the function;
- the importance of not engaging in conduct that breaches policies or brings themselves or the employer into disrepute; and
- to be careful and considerate about what they post to social media about the event.
During the party
Christmas functions should have at least one “dedicated sleigh driver” or “responsible manager”, who will remain stone cold sober throughout the evening. They should be someone in a senior position with the authority and capacity to credibly deal with any issues.
- Ensure that the RSA principles are observed and implemented by the venue.
- Announce the formal end of the event. Do not announce any after‑parties or other events. (If staff choose to kick on it needs to be clear that the work function has ended.)
- Ensure staff have arrangements to get home safely. Offer cab vouchers or reimbursement making it clear this is from the function venue to home, and nowhere else.
After the party
Any complaints or issues arising from the function should be dealt with in accordance with the applicable policy and taking into account when they occurred and whether it is a private matter outside the application of the employment relationship.
- Keep an eye on social media postings. While a photo or social media ban of such events is impractical and counterproductive, employees should be urged to be judicious in their posting and comply with the firm’s social media policy.
All of the above should be done with the message – don’t forget it’s the workplace:
- Employees should be reminded that a Christmas party is not a licence to do things in the workplace that they would never otherwise do.
If something does go wrong
If the sleigh de-rails, then act immediately and effectively. A Christmas party or end-of-year function may be close to the office shutdown, but of the biggest mistakes you can make is to leave the post-party clean up until the new year.
Susan Comerford is a senior human resources executive with particular strengths in strategic human resource management, business structures, law practice development and operational management. She consults to clients of Burgess Paluch on an hourly, daily or project basis. To discuss our Human Resources Consulting services for law firms contact Susan Comerford or Paul Burgess on 03 8676 0372 or via firstname.lastname@example.org