Mall decorations and peppermint mochas can only mean one thing – the holidays are here again and office festivity plans are well underway. Holiday parties can bring out the very best and the very worst in employees. Unfortunately, the days are gone when what happens at the holiday party stays at the holiday party.  With increased use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, what seemed to be a funny and harmless office party prank may now be captured for posterity.  The following practical tips may help avoid the party going viral on the internet:

  • Remind employees that all company policies and procedures, including social media policies and anti-discrimination/anti-harassment policies, continue to apply equally at holiday parties and off–site events. Employees tend to “let loose” at holiday parties, so consider sending a company-wide memo reminding employees of company expectations regarding proper decorum, appropriate attire, and professional conduct.  Designate multiple supervisors to monitor and address inappropriate behavior.
  • Consider hiring a professional photographer or renting a photo booth for entertainment.  Employees may be less likely to take their own pictures/videos when other options are provided.  It is an added bonus that these pictures cannot easily be posted on the Internet.
  • Ensure that the holiday party theme is not specific to any one religion and does not exclude any particular individuals or groups of employees.  For example, hosting the company’s annual Christmas or Hanukkah party could make employees who do not celebrate those religious occasions feel uncomfortable, which could lead to disgruntled posts.  The risk is only increased where employee attendance is mandatory.
  • Take proactive steps to limit improper or questionable conduct by selecting a venue that is tasteful and not otherwise offensive to any employee.  For example, a holiday party held at a nearby restaurant or in the office conference room is probably a better idea than a holiday party held at a nightclub.
  • Consider limiting alcohol consumption to one or two drinks per employee by distributing drink tickets and instructing venue staff not to provide drinks to anyone without tickets. Of course, having a “no questions asked, free ride home” car service available to anyone who nevertheless gets too intoxicated to drive is a good idea.

Happy Holidays!