Office holiday parties: How to steer clear of a train wreck

Want to keep your company holiday gathering from spinning into a liability nightmare? Limit the booze—and don’t let the boss dress as Santa and invite everyone to sit on his lap.

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Think it was awkward at your holiday party when the guy from sales had too much to drink and hit on the intern?

Consider the alcohol-fueled party in Washington state where people heckled the CEO when he got up to offer his season’s greetings. Also, a free-spirited young receptionist took off her top. More than just landing on the “naughty” list, she got fired.

“I’m sure that wasn’t her intent going into the party,” says Suzan Sturholm, who operates the Washington state human relations consultancy All Things HR.

Once again it’s time for legal, HR, and other sober, fully clothed adults to think through ways to limit employee recklessness and corporate liability at the holiday bash. And communications can play a role in getting the word out.

Failing to deal with such issues could leave companies terminating staff or facing lawsuits for drunken-driving accidents.

Sturholm, who offered tips online recently, suggests drafting an email or having managers remind employees: “You’re still expected to have a high level of professionalism. This isn’t to cut loose. This is to celebrate.”

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