Prevent Christmas Party HR problems

So, it’s the day after the Christmas party, and you – the head of Human Resources – are holding your head in your hands.

It’s like a hundred bells are ringing in your head.

But these are not jingle bells or a hangover taking its toll… they’re alarm bells after learning about all the staff party shenanigans.

Unfortunately, none of your staff had read this handy guide to Christmas party clangers, so there’s a lot of work to do!

HR: the Christmas fun police… or the clean-up crew?

Some people might see HR as the fun police when it comes to Christmas parties, but for many of you, it might feel like you’re more of a clean-up crew.

It can be years without an incident, and then one Christmas, there are broken hearts, damaged egos and crushed career prospects – all of it coming through the door of the HR department. Sometimes it’s worse. It’s fielding calls from irate venue owners, handling raging emails, or hearing about when that polite middle manager is making their first appearance in court.

What on Earth happened?

So, let’s get back to you, our embattled HR manager, holding your head in your hands the day after the party.

As the phone stops ringing, the emails die down for a minute, and the crowd at your door peters out, you think back to last night…

At first, everyone seemed happy: the eggnog was flowing, and Christmas tunes were blasting. Everything had been arranged without a hitch, and everyone turned up.

So, what went wrong? Let’s find out.

Clanger #1: Staff embarrassed your company

You remember that particular staff member now – sat at the restaurant table, clicking their fingers and barking at a waiter. All to look impressive. You were seated at the far end of the table… otherwise, you would have warned them that the venue owner knows the boss. How else could your company have clinched that discount?

And then, after a line manager apologised, got the bill, and everyone moved on, there was the rest of the embarrassment.

This included someone whose dinner reappeared on the coach ride home.

Someone who should have been on the coach was a certain mild-mannered middle manager. They were not so mild-mannered last night… you later heard he had sped off in his car with breath stronger than his exhaust. He found blue lights in his rear-view mirror – and a night in the cells – helped slow him down. But an upcoming court appearance, and the fact he needs his driving licence for work, will cause a few issues.

If only the night’s problems had been confined to these embarrassing incidents. They were not.

Today, your mind races back and forth: what else happened?

Get ahead of the problem: Before the party, remind people that this is still a work event. Everyone is representing the company, so they should drink in moderation. Actions – including arrestable offences – can unavoidably affect staff work situations.

Clanger #2 Someone decided to settle an old score

Yes, you felt their pain when they had been passed over for a promotion a few weeks ago – but was the slow dance really the moment for them to pick a fight with their line manager?

No, it wasn’t.

Today his boss has just left HR. They were sad, confused, and figuring out how to make a disciplinary less career-defining for this once-emboldened worker.

Get ahead of the problem: Remind staff ahead of time that their actions do have consequences. This is a works event, meaning people are in many respects still “at work”, and they need to keep composed and act (reasonably) sensibly. Meanwhile, managers must not take the bait should anyone become aggravated. They should act professionally, promising to be receptive to any grievances during conventional work hours.

Clanger #3 Sleaze-bag, not smooth operator

He knew better… she wasn’t interested, and that mistletoe hanging over them wasn’t fate but a cheap supermarket decoration. Now there’s a major issue – the woman in question hasn’t come in today, people are calling him a sleaze-bag… and now you have to figure out how serious all of this is.

Get ahead of the problem: As well as customary warnings, it is always worth reminding people of your company’s sexual harassment policies – and the law. A party is the perfect time to remind people about both. The same goes for in-work relationships… let them know what the policies are, what must be declared, and when.

Clanger #4 Everyone is suddenly “ill”

Another tricky problem has reared its head the day after the party.

Some people have become mysteriously ill overnight. Some have called in to take impromptu leave, nursing their hangover, but that’s already annoying those left behind. Others are AWOL, causing staff shortages, missing essential meetings, and avoiding your calls like the plague.

Now you have to speak to bosses about the vanishing team members and consider between you –one by one – whether each absentee should have an informal discussion about their conduct or go through a formal process and face the very real prospect of no longer being employed.

Get ahead of the problem: The dream is to have the Christmas party at the end of a working week – but a lack of venue booking slots, their cost, and variable staff hours, often means this is simply not possible. If people have to work the next day, it is worth letting them know that, unless they have holiday signed off in advance, they cannot take time off at the last minute if they have a sore head from drinking. Lateness, likewise, will be frowned upon.

HR professionals: don’t suffer in silence after a Christmas Party

Just one call to our HR advisors will take away the topsy-turvy tummy caused by Christmas Party stress. Our team will dissolve away the headache of legal issues and wash away the confusion around policy, strategy, and administration.

Contact us today for a helpful, refreshing take on HR.