Holiday parties: What employees really think

Public Policy Polling offers the results of its survey of employees about the annual (for many) gathering, which can be full of good cheer or rife with questionable behavior.

With the holiday season kicking off, so is the deluge of stories, articles, and blog posts about the perils of the annual workplace holiday party.

I think these kind of events were always difficult to deal with, but they have become even more so in the age of social media—when everything seems to end up on Facebook-and in an era of heightened sensitivities and rampant lawsuits.

What employees think of holiday parties

I always find it interesting when I get a survey about holiday parties and the reactions of employees about them, as I did this week from Public Policy Polling. Here are the highlights:

  • Most employers (71 percent) usually offer holiday parties, but a substantial 29 percent of employers don’t offer a holiday party at all.
  • Some 40 percent of companies make holiday parties employees only, while 33 percent allow employees to bring a guest, and 28 percent invite families.
  • Alcohol is served at only 46 percent of parties, with 54 percent of employers saying that they never allow it.
  • Of those that allow alcohol at holiday parties, 39 percent have policies or rules related to alcohol use and consumption.
  • Only 23 percent report that there is an expectation that everyone attend a company party, and 17 percent say that it negatively reflects on them if they don’t show up.
  • One in four (26 percent) of employees say they have seen a co-worker act inappropriately at a holiday party, but only 4 percent report that they know of someone who was disciplined or fired as a result of their party behavior.
  • And 10 percent of those surveyed said they regretted something they once said or did at a holiday party.

Be careful out there

“Holiday parties are intended to celebrate and support employees for their hard work, but employers need to keep in mind that safety and liability are legitimate concerns here,” Dean Debnam, chief executive officer at Workplace Options, says in a press release about the survey.

Debnam says, “Employers can encourage a good, yet safe time by making conservative choices about alcohol. It’s also important to set expectations for behavior by reminding employees that it is still a work function, where behavior is being observed.”

Remember these words of wisdom you can apply to holiday parties, taken from a great TV show of the past, “Hill Street Blues”: “Let’s be careful out there.”

John Hollon is vice president for editorial of, and the former editor of Workforce Management Magazine and A version of this article first appeared on TLNT.

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