Personnel e.bulletin – November 2012

Company Events – Do’s and Don’ts 

Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

It is that time of year again and holiday event planning is underway. In spite of the continued challenging economic conditions, most companies will continue their tradition this year of hosting some sort of holiday celebration to thank and reward their employees for their contributions and hard work throughout the year.

While holiday parties are well intended, they can loose their charm quickly if they escalate into employee relations or even legal issues. With the right precautions and ownership of responsibilities, events can be a great investment in staff morale and engagement.

Since holiday parties are a business event, both management and employees have a responsibility to treat them as such.  Companies who share the accountability for the success of their sponsored events, are much more likely to enjoy win-wins. This year, make it a season of dual accountability by sharing the following suggestions.

Companies: Poll your staff for their ideas and preferences to get a better sense of what they would like and what’s most important to them.

Employees: Voice your opinion, let your managers know what activities are meaningful and motivational to you.

Managers: Encourage your staff to attend events by articulating the value, but DO NOT communicate that they are mandatory.  In general, it is important that your company does not require attendance at company-sponsored events to mitigate legal risk. In the process, be sure to eliminate any perception that work is being conducted.

Employees: Attendance is purely optional. You should not feel pressured or obliged to attend, nor should there be any negative consequences should you choose not to.

Companies: The timing of your event can set the tone. Consider a lunchtime celebration with a return to work afterward or an afternoon party with an early release for the day. This pulls employees out of the field during work hours, but helps to avoid the expectations of alcohol being served that may come with having an evening event.

Managers: If alcohol is a part of your celebration, remember that drinking in moderation is your responsibility, and you must take it seriously. You are senior role models/representatives of your company and set the standards for behavior.  If you don’t keep alcohol consumption in check, you may have a tough time returning to pre-party roles and relationships.  Even worse, you risk losing the respect of your employees.

Employees: Don’t be the one that everyone is talking about the next day. The stereotype is the person who got so drunk at the office party that they groped a co-worker, told off the boss, and passed out under the buffet table. It should be obvious that your attempt at being the “life of the party” can cost you your job.

But even being the one who is stumbling a bit or is slurring their speech at the party demonstrates to your co-workers and managers that your decision making skills and/or self-control isn’t what it should be. Having just a drink or two more than you should have can affect how others see you, including those who make decisions about raises and promotions.

Drinking a bit too much may also cost you your life or your freedom. If you drive drunk, you are risking killing yourself or someone else. While your company should arrange for transportation for employees who over indulge, the final responsibility ultimately rests with you.

Remember, too that cameras are everywhere now. If your behavior is worth recording, you can count on one of your co-workers to “helpfully” step forward with video documentation should a problem arise from your actions.

Managers: Company events are a unique and great venue for making a good impression.  Your staff will be watching you. Believe it or not, employees yearn for executive role models as well as to be assured that their company is in the hands of leadership that they trust to make good decisions.

Be sensitive to the reality that the owner and managers play a big part in setting the “tone” – environment and ambiance are key ingredients to attendee behavior. Whenever invitees feel intimidated, inconvenienced, embarrassed or presented with too much temptation, the consequences will be remembered long after the actual deeds. Don’t unwittingly give employees an excuse to engage in bad behavior!

Employees: Remember that company events are business functions.  They are wrapped in a social context but they are still work and the impressions you make at events are important.  You will be noticed, good or bad.

Office Party Etiquette
Here are a few additional tips for both managers and employee to ensure that a good and appropriate time is had by all.

— Dress appropriately for the occasion. Leave the Hawaiian shirt and flip flops at home (unless that’s the theme!) and avoid short, tight or revealing items. You’ve worked hard to create a professional image, and non-professional clothes can alter your coworkers’ and manager’s perception of you as a competent professional.

— For bigger companies, your company party may be one of the few times a year you get to see the owner in person. Say hello be visible to your organization’s higher-ups. At the very least, don’t spend the entire evening with your regular buddies – get in the holiday spirit and mingle with people.

— Find out who can come to the event. Spouses and significant others are not always on the guest list. Check beforehand to avoid a potentially uncomfortable evening.

— Pay attention to the time you arrive and when you leave. Even if you don’t really want to attend, avoid arriving 20 minutes before the end just to make an appearance. On the flip side, don’t party into the wee hours either. Co-workers and managers will notice both errors in judgment.

— Be sure to thank those who coordinated the party. They likely put in a great deal of effort hoping you would have a good time. Not only is saying thank you the nice thing to do, but it also makes you stand out from the many employees who don’t.


This content was developed for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of November 2012. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at


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