In the midst of all the controversy surrounding allegations of misconduct in the workplace, employees need to take extra care in how they conduct themselves at their place of work. This is especially true during the holiday season, as there is always an office party or a team celebration to attend somewhere. However, to help you avoid being involved in the next office scandal and/or to prevent your company from getting unwanted, and perhaps embarrassing press, we’ve consulted PR professional David Rudolph, senior managing partner at D. Ericson & Associates in Detroit. Rudolph has crafted 12 common sense tips to help you have a successful holiday office party that will keep you and your company from having a holiday crisis. This practical advice will help keep your holiday office party fun, on-message, and avoid a potential crisis.
- Select the right location, location, location – If you are planning an office party for the holiday, keep it in the office. This is a not-so -ubtle reminder that no matter the activity, you are in a place of business. Dress codes, company cultural norms and self-conduct must be maintained at all times, even during a holiday party. Avoid having an office party at a bar or place that signals a lessening of accepted business standards.
- Leave the booze at the bar – Leave the alcohol at the bar when planning an office party. Alcohol is like a truth serum for some; it can lower inhibitions and spur on unwanted bad behavior. As the boss, the last thing you need is to have a well-intentioned holiday celebration become a human relations issue at best or at worst, a criminal incident that goes public.
- Strategically party plan – In business we like to set goals and objectives with a measurable action plan. Well, if you want to avoid a PR crisis, make sure you are taking the lead by creating a holiday planning committee and work with them to define what you hope to achieve from your holiday party. Make sure you set boundaries and identify what behavior will NOT be tolerated: no locker room talk, no photo copying of body parts or no closed door hanky-panky.
- Make the season bright – Leave the mistletoe in “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole. Guys, you know that office crush you have? Keep it to yourself. The office party is not the time, nor the place to try to be cute by whipping out a piece of mistletoe. The mistletoe is not your big chance to finally get a smooch. No. No and hell no!
- Say no to the office dating game – Do not treat your office holiday party like it’s a dating game. Again, just because you are taking time out of your normal business activity to celebrate the season of giving and cheer, does not give you permission to come out of character and put on your “dating game face.” Don’t treat the office party like you’re at a singles bar.
- Flirt not – The office party is no place for flirty behavior. “Coming on,” “pushing up,” “running-game,” call it what you want, but acting in a provocative manner will get you in deep trouble, and can potentially have you looking for another job, or worse as we say in Detroit, “catch a case.”
- Say yes to the party dress or suit – Dress appropriately to your holiday party. You want to stay in line with the business culture of your organization. It is your responsibility is to set the tone from start to finish. There is nothing wrong with dressing up or looking festive at the office holiday party. However, don’t over do it. If you would not show up at a client meeting in a Speedo or flesh exposed little black dress, it’s probably not a good look for you to show up at the office party showing off too much of the assets if you get my drift.
- Leave the jokes to comedians – Yeah don’t be that person that decides to be a comedian and tell inappropriate jokes at the office party. How many times have you heard a co-worker try to tell a joke they heard or saw on TV, only to jack-up the punch-line, use inappropriate language, or worse, find a way to say something offensive or racially charged? Remember that golden rule you should’ve learned in kindergarten? If you have nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut!
- Put the cell phone down – Can you hear me now? No, because at the office holiday party you need to put your cell phone away. The office party is a great time to bond with your coworkers and the bosses without the stressful situations around dealing with clients or customers. Social media is not going anywhere, and if you must take a phone call, slip away, do it in private and be brief. Take the time to unplug with your coworkers and enjoy the yuletide carols. It’s a party, enjoy it.
- Don’t talk dirty – Gossip is the devil’s radio, so don’t be his deejay. Don’t talk about your coworkers or clients behind their backs at the office party. It’s not becoming of a professional to gossip and it makes you look petty. Again, if you have nothing nice to say, talk about the weather, cats or dogs.
- To bring a guest or not bring a guest – that is the question – Depending on the situation, time of day, and location, it may or may not be appropriate to bring a guest to the holiday office party. If the boss says bring a friend, spouse or partner, then by all means you have a green light. If the office party is during the business day, and the boss has not signaled their approval for additional guests, don’t try to slide your “bae” into the party. If the party is an evening affair away from the office, it would be appropriate to bring your significant other.
- Don’t bring the Grinch – If your invitation to the holiday office party includes bringing a guest, be careful about who you choose to bring with you. Your guest is a reflection of you. Therefore, you need to make sure your guest understands in advance how to behave around you, your coworkers and most importantly, the boss.
You’ve worked hard all year, and the holiday office party is a great way to bond and enjoy the season with your colleagues. Don’t mar the occasion by being an inappropriate Grinch who gets fired, his/her name in the media for being a bad boy or girl, then having to hire an attorney to keep you out of jail and a publicist to save your reputation. Happy holidays.