"Managing People with Morecrofts"

Mad Friday – Avoiding your employer’s naughty list

by Thomas Sutherland

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, already 12 months since Last Christmas, with the usual far-fetched hopes of a White Christmas marked by Santa Claus coming to town and waking up to a White Christmas. But enough of the Christmas song puns; it’s the holding of the Christmas party which makes most employers fear the lack of an otherwise Silent Night (ok, I’ll stop the Christmas puns now!)

Today marks Mad Friday, the last working Friday before Christmas. It’s become known as such due to the tricky combination of alcohol, colleagues and Christmas spirit during the Christmas socials which are popular on this date.

An increasing number of employers have a rather novel way of avoiding problems at the Christmas do – that being the practice of simply not having one! However, a responsibly-held Christmas party can be a great chance to meet people outside of your department, celebrate the past year and get to know colleagues in a social context.

As an aside, those employers avoiding the Christmas party this year can still introduce fun initiatives to increase workplace Christmas spirit. Good suggestions include Christmas jumper days (with prizes for the best and worst jumpers) and departmental competitions as to the most impressively decorated office space (but employers should watch out for those electricity bills!)

Let’s be honest, nothing screams festive spirit like a good Christmas party. The problem is, of course, that everyone has heard many tales of Christmas party woes and no-one wants to become the talk of the office on the next working day!

It wouldn’t be a Christmas party blog without mentioning some of the more bizarre Christmas party stories. So, let’s lead with our Top 3 examples of things not to do at the Christmas bash based on real-life examples:

(1) Don’t wake up in another country! This is a particular risk on the continent where one adventurous Dutchman woke up in Lille train station having started the night at his firm’s Christmas party in Amsterdam!

(2) Don’t hit the Director over the head with a plate at a Greek restaurant without first checking it is a plate specifically designed for this purpose! Luckily, the main damage was the individual’s damaged ego (and a small temporary lump on the Director’s head) and no disciplinary action was taken.

(3) Don’t tell numerous colleagues that you prefer the company of your cats due to them being ‘much more interesting and intelligent’ than your colleagues! The woman in question quickly found her workmates to be slightly less matey towards her after making these comments.

Some Employers fear a wave of employees absences the day after the party. Our top tip? Either outline in advance that employee absences will only be tolerated if caused by genuine illness or have the party on a Friday evening.
Another top tip for employers would be to hide the mistletoe!

A survey by TGI Fridays in 2011 found that around a quarter of the working population have, at some stage, kissed a colleague at the Christmas do. As you can imagine, such actions normally lead to embarrassment and awkwardness rather than long-term romance and chocolates…
And now the big one. The word many employers fear: banter!

Whist workplace banter can be perfectly harmless and amusing, it also has the potential to cross the line into becoming insulting and overbearing when alcohol and/or festive mischief is added into the mix.

Whilst trading funny comments with close friends is fairly safe, walking up to your Manager and telling him to go easy on the wine lest his already red nose reach Rudolph proportions is not likely to do your career prospects any good!

Banter can even stretch to the issue of Secret Santa, particularly those who decide to buy presents from the more ‘specialist’ end of the high street. Yes, employees do buy items from shops specialising in lingerie and a lot more besides for colleagues; no, it isn’t particularly festive; and yes, it does regularly result in grievances being raised against the purchaser from an angry recipient!

The basic rule, for employees and employers alike, is to regard the conduct of the Christmas social as they do conduct in the workplace. Failure to do so may result in entry on their employer’s naughty list! Our advice on this hasn’t changed since our last Christmas party-themed blog 12 months ago – http://www.morecrofts.co.uk/blog/2013-12-06-should-employers-fear-the-christmas-party/

So, basically, if an action would be inappropriate in the office, it shouldn’t be repeated at the party. Obvious exceptions to this include flamboyant singing of Christmas carols, pulling of Christmas crackers (followed by the mandatory groan at the joke inside) and wearing of Christmas-themed jumpers (bonus points for penguin-themed efforts as per this season’s fashion following a certain advertising campaign).

We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!