Christmas Parties in Light of Recent Harassment Allegations

Office Party HarassmentThe current outrage sparked by allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein and other public figures has sparked a national conversation about workplace harassment. Since October 5th, when multiple women came forward naming Weinstein and alleging decades of sexual abuse, numerous high-profile men have been accused of sexual misconduct. The increased awareness of the potential consequences of harassment have many business managers on edge. In light of this, and the time of year, many companies are understandably concerned about the office holiday party. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., the “Weinstein effect” seems to be the main reason the number of firms they surveyed are forgoing the holiday party this year. This number has more than doubled, up from 4% in 2016 to 11% of employers this year.

Christmas parties are a celebration, culminating the year of work, as well as a good morale booster. That being said, the relaxed environment and celebratory feel of a party can lead some people to excess or less-than-optimum conduct, contributing to allegations of harassment or other improper conduct. While one solution might be to assign someone in management to quietly monitor behavior, there are choices you can make beforehand that decrease the likelihood that person will have to step in. Here are some tips to keep your holiday parties on track and create a fun environment for everyone:

  • Consider the location of your party. Choosing a restaurant over a bar creates a mental shift for behavior.
  • Skip or shorten the happy hour, and serve a meal. Serving food lessens the effects of alcohol.
  • Consider the time of the party. Shifting the party earlier in the day will likely decrease alcohol consumption and decrease the night-time party atmosphere.
  • Hire professional bartenders who know how to cut off problem drinkers gracefully.
  • Serve beer or wine, not hard liquor.
  • Issue drink tickets (2 per person) or eliminate the open bar.
  • Provide entertainment. When employees are busy having a good time, they are much less likely to misbehave.

Alternatively, consider shifting away from a traditional party. It is possible to do this while still boosting company morale. Some ideas we’ve recently seem:

  • Bring in a catered lunch and raffle off prizes, play board games, have a white elephant/present swap where everyone brings a small gift (e.g., $10 limit) and participants can “steal” a gift from each other.
  • Serve as a team. Consider closing the office early and volunteering together at a local non-profit.
  • Consider an activity: rent out a bowling alley, ice skating rink or movie theater. Star Wars anyone?

Best wishes to you and yours for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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