‘TIS the season to be jolly – but when it comes to the office Christmas party, some employees are guilty of taking merriment a little too far.
From alcohol-fuelled arguments with colleagues to throwing drunken shapes on the dancefloor, festive get-togethers are often remembered – albeit sometimes hazily – for all the wrong reasons.
Having worked in the hospitality sector for 18 years, starting out as a waiter aged just 14, Craig Walker has seen his fair share of Christmas party calamities. Now the deputy manager of the Tor Na Coille Hotel in Banchory, Craig and his front of house team are preparing to welcome dozens of guests to the venue’s party nights that will be held throughout December.
Craig says, “While every party I’ve helped to organise has been very different depending on what the client wants and the overall company culture, there are some similarities that are evident at every festive gathering.
“It’s almost a given than someone will feel very sheepish the morning after when they realise they may have insulted colleagues after a little too much Dutch courage, and I’m always amazed if we get through the evening without at least one person crying.
“Regardless of all the dramas, I do believe that Christmas parties are an excellent incentive for staff. It’s a chance for management to show how much they appreciate staff and recognise their efforts over the past 12 months.”
Craig’s experience has enabled him to compile a list of the most common festive party faux pas – and having witnessed the fall-out year after year, he’s even come up with some suggestions as how to avoid that sinking feeling come Monday morning.
Not everyone loves Christmas parties, but it’s important that you attend because it shows that you are a team player and are committed to being part of the company.
Not attending is the worst thing you can do, not least because you’ll feel alienated when you are unable join in the post-party chat. If there are genuine reasons why you cannot make it, make sure you email the organiser to explain and perhaps even curry favour with colleagues by buying a couple of boxes of chocolates for the office in lieu of you not being able to buy them a drink.
The second worst thing you can do is “make an appearance”. If you leave straight after the meal your absence will be noted, and it could lead to you being accused of just going along for free food. It’s one night of the year – grin and bear it.
Don’t put your colleagues in the frame
People want to relax at their Christmas party and while you may want to record every moment of the event for social media, you need to be respectful of other people’s privacy and their right to enjoy the festivities without fear of what will end up on Facebook.
If you must post it to social media, it’s perhaps best to do so in the cold light of day so you can ensure nothing inappropriate appears online. Avoid tagging colleagues or mentioning the name of your employer. It may also be worth familiarising yourself with the company social media policy before the party to make sure you are not in breach of your employment contract – remember this is still a work event even if it does take place out of normal working hours.
Be a social butterfly
While you may be naturally drawn to the people you sit next to in the office, don’t stick to them like glue all night. This is your chance to socialise with people from other departments and to find out more about your colleagues. No one likes a work-talk bore at social events, but consider this an opportunity to network a make good impression on managers who may be responsible for promotions or career development.
Mind your manners
Most staff enjoy a free Christmas party, but remember that it has to be paid for somehow and someone in the company will have taken on the task of organising it. Make sure you thank anyone who had a hand in arranging the party – from sending out the invites to footing the bill - and let them know you enjoyed yourself. The gesture will be appreciated and will not go unnoticed.
Don’t drink too much
Alcohol is usually a key driver of every Christmas party faux pas I’ve ever witnessed. I think it extremely unlikely that anyone would deliver a long, rambling monologue to the managing director on why they deserve a pay rise while sober, nor would they think it’s acceptable to make sexually suggestive comments to a colleague.
If your lips do end up getting a bit loose after a few glasses of wine, then the best solution is to take ownership of the mistake. You should personally apologise to anyone you may have offended, and if your behaviour was particularly bad, you may want to consider writing a letter of apology too. You’ll gain back the respect of your colleagues, and a display of genuine remorse and contrition should also put an end to them talking about your behaviour for weeks and months to come.
Craig points out that having a Christmas party off-site can also be helpful in managing alcohol intake. While no one other than a good Samaritan will monitor quantities of alcohol being consumed at an office-based event, license holders and staff at licenced venues have both a legal and moral duty to call time when guests have clearly had enough.
“The office Christmas party that is actually held in the office is slowly becoming a thing of the past, especially because employers are often concerned that there may be a risk of expensive equipment or furniture becoming accidentally damaged.
“At the end of the day, it’s their opportunity to let their hair down too so they don’t really want to spend the evening worrying about drinks being spilled over computers or someone deciding to dance on a table after one too many sherries.
“Party nights, also known as bring a party to a party – are becoming more and more popular, while hiring out a venue’s function suite for exclusive use can often be more cost effective – and be less troublesome – than organising for food and drink to be brought onto company premises and having to perform risk assessments.”
The Tor Na Coille Hotel is a four-star Victorian country house hotel with 25 individually styled rooms, a restaurant and bar and on-site gym. For more information about festive celebrations at the Tor Na Coille Hotel, visit www.tornacoille.com