How to Idiot-Proof Your Office Holiday Party

My wife and I are expecting our first child this winter, and in preparation we are taking one of those “Welcome to Childbirth & Parenthood” classes.

The most recent session took a merciful detour from placentas and swollen ankles to cover how to care for an infant, where among other things we learned the rudiments of child-proofing your home.

Letting my mind briefly wander from infant safety during class (my wife is NOT going to be pleased when she reads this), I of course started doing that entrepreneur thing, and applying the lessons being discussed to my live trivia entertainment business. With holiday party season just around the corner, it didn’t take long for a clear parallel to reveal itself.

Ah, the annual holiday party – that one special event where everyone traditionally lets their guard down, relaxes, and gets to enjoy the company of one’s co-workers. It’s also the single-most nerve-wracking employee event from a management perspective, especially those running the HR and legal departments.

The event is held at an off-site, possibly unfamiliar venue. Booze is flowing. Inhibitions are plunging. Tomorrow, a good chunk of the staff will be calling in sick. Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

Yes, yes, I know, I sound like the biggest Grinch of them all – but the simple truth is, holiday parties are notorious for bringing out the worst in some staff members – namely, those who get hammered. When employees are trashed at an office-sponsored event, a host of bad things can occur: the wrong things are said, inappropriate contact is made, and accusations can fly. The result may be disciplinary action up to and including termination, not to mention grievances filed with HR and/or the police. THAT doesn’t sound like much fun – way to ruin it for everyone, guys.

So, for better or for worse, here are some options available to idiot-proof your office holiday party. Take them or leave them:

  1. Make the event dry (I can hear the “boo’s!” through my computer screen…)
  2. Hold the party on-site, in your office space
  3. Hold the event during the middle of the day, or at least earlier in the evening
  4. Don’t invite high school or college interns, who may be a bit too “open bar happy”
  5. Invite your clients, to keep employees on their best behavior
  6. Don’t let anyone drive; provide transportation to and from the venue
  7. Make it family-friendly, and encourage staff to bring their spouses & children

Of course, what’s going to happen at the company holiday party is going to happen, and a lot depends on your staff and the culture you maintain. Maybe you are a group of work hard/play hard types, in which case, ignore everything I’ve said. However, if you want to make your party as fun and clean as possible, maybe take a few steps to keep the bad apples from spoiling the bunch.

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