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Top four tips for a stress-free company holiday party

Employers need to be mindful of office celebration pitfalls

James McDonough //December 12, 2016//

Top four tips for a stress-free company holiday party

Employers need to be mindful of office celebration pitfalls

James McDonough //December 12, 2016//

Holiday parties are a great way to celebrate the year’s accomplishments, foster relationship building among co-workers and boost team morale in a non-work environment. Along with these benefits, it is wise for employers to be aware of the potential problems that can stem from inappropriate behavior or actions that might happen when co-workers interact in a more casual way. Here are four tips to ensure everyone enjoys the occasion in a safe and fun way.

Manage Alcohol Consumption

Serving alcohol at company parties is common practice but also exposes the employer to great risks. Because employers are ultimately responsible for keeping employees safe in these situations, it’s important to take steps to minimize associated risks. For example, consider holding the event at an off-site location with a liquor license and with licensed professionals to check IDs and cut off inebriated drinkers.

 Limit consumption by providing drink tickets, and allowing a limited number of drinks per employee. Holding the event or celebration after work hours and on a week day – instead of on the weekend – may help reduce employees’ temptation to over-indulge. Before the party, assign someone to be the ‘DO” (Designated Observer) who will monitor employee behavior and alcohol intake.  

Clearly communicate alcohol limitations with employees before the party and your concern for everyone’s safety. Advise them to have a safe post-party transportation plan; provide them with a contact list of transportation options or even consider offering company-paid driver services.  

Avoid Inappropriate Behavior and Harassment Issues

A common company party complaint that can create headaches for employers after the party is over, are claims of harassment or inappropriate behavior. Taking measures to manage the mood and atmosphere of the party during the planning phase is an important way to prevent unwanted behavior.

 For example, invite employees’ spouses or families to the party, avoid explicit music or entertainment and leave any inappropriate gifts at home. Clearly communicate expectations with employees before the party to ensure everyone understands what type of behavior is expected and tolerated.

Give Back

If employees seem tired of the annual gift exchange at your holiday party, consider instead ways to help those in need. Pick a cause or organization to support and encourage employees to contribute a gift, donate funds or non-perishable food items.

Hosting a silent auction or raffle at the party, with proceeds going to the charity of choice, is a fun way to facilitate interaction between employees and involve them in the giving process. Corporate philanthropy is a great way to enhance employee morale and engagement, promote employee camaraderie, and spread holiday cheer, all while giving back to the community.


Take steps to ensure that your event is inclusive and welcoming for all employees, regardless of differences in religion or ethnic background. To avoid making the party feel like work, don’t invite clients, require employee attendance, or have work-related discussions. Do encourage employees to use the occasion to create new relationships, get to know a coworker better, and to have fun.

When planning and executing a company holiday party, keep in mind the benefits for employees and prepare for any potential problems.

James McDonough is the HR Research Consultant, Member Engagement at Mountain States Employers Council (MSEC). He consults with MSEC staff and members to address Human Resource issues, conducts research and analysis on a wide variety of topics. He manages MSEC Library resources and services, conducts training and presentations, and writes articles and blogs on workplace topics.