Recent research has shown that 30% of employers do not usually have Christmas parties for their employees. This represents a significant reduction in the number of festive parties since data started being collected in 2009. Some employers have blamed financial constraints while others have said that, quite simply, they’re not missed by employees.
According to Evren Esen, director of survey programmes for the Society for Human Resource Management (in the US):
Maybe it’s one of those things that’s not as appealing to employees any more…Millennial employees may also have different expectations of the workplace and how they want to spend their time at work.
Meanwhile in the UK, reputation and brand management specialists Igniyte, has published the results of a survey which shows that one in four UK employees have vowed to drink less this year, with a view to avoiding embarrassing themselves and/or flirting with a colleague.
The research also shows that nearly one in three employees have flirted with another employee and over one in four kissed a co-worker at a Christmas party. While such activities may at face value seem to be relatively harmless, the research also reveals some more worrying tendencies. Apparently 14% of energy and utility sector workers have been dumped by their partners as a result of their Christmas party behaviour, while 14% of employees in the same sector are planning to confront a colleague or tell them that they don’t like them. In the property sector one in ten have received written or verbal warnings following bad behaviour at a Christmas party and, remarkably, 8% of those questioned lost their jobs as a result of what they did.
As a sign of changing times 15% are planning to change their Facebook settings before the party so that they have to approve a ‘tag’ in a photo or status.
Of course, it is not just employees that may behave badly. The apparently relaxed environment of the Christmas party can cause big problems resulting from the misbehaviour of employers. Every year there are news stories about discrimination in various forms (particularly sex discrimination) and, sadly, reports of serious assaults. It’s led some to ask, in all seriousness “is there anything worse than an office Christmas party?”. In the words of Constance Watson in The Spectator:
It is almost always a horror show. Colleagues who are cheerful all year round turn into angry drunks. Usually benign bosses become second-rate pimps. The interesting become boring and the boring become interminable.
Her sensible advice is not to be too stingy with alcohol but to keep the party simple and short. If some want to go on and get paralytic somewhere else, that’s up to them. Critically however it will not be at a function organised by and very likely associated with the employer. A good case in point in terms of reputation damage can be seen in the case involving MBNA Bank that I discussed last month.I think that the answer is to follow the advice to keep it short, with a definite finishing time that is adhered to. Also, avoid Christmas party games and sit-down Christmas dinners – we’re not in the 70s any more. Ask your staff what they would like – you may be surprised. If you’re concerned that some might abuse the hospitality, consider issuing drinks tokens, perhaps ticking them off against employee allowances when they’re redeemed. We have no need to be killjoys for those who want to behave and enjoy themselves. However, a few sensible precautions can go a long way in helping to avoid tricky and potentially very serious problems that, in the cold light of the (next) day, no-one really wanted.