During the holiday season, company outings are part of the year-end tradition for many organizations. While holiday gatherings can be important ways of rewarding your employees for their hard work and fostering loyalty, you need to make sure that your company is protected from complaints and liability, as well.
Many holiday parties and other outings involve alcohol – and often a general festive air of letting off steam. In some instances, this can lead to overindulgence in alcohol or other substances, either at the party itself or after. These circumstances, in turn, can lead to instances of harassment, sexual harassment, and general lack of safety.
To minimize the risk both to your employees and your company, here are a few reminders as you host and attend these gatherings.
Make all policies clear
All policies regarding how employees treat each other, alcohol and drug use, workplace safety, harassment, and sexual harassment need to be clearly outlined in your employee handbook. Remember: if incidents do occur that lead to complaints or charges, your company’s best defense is a policy disseminated to all employees.
These policies stress the importance of treating each other with dignity and respect. If your organization tests for or has a policy against alcohol or drug use, say so. Clearly state the definition of harassment and sexual harassment. Have a plan in place for any disciplinary actions needed as a result of policy violations.
Reinforce the policies before the outings
It doesn’t hurt to reinforce the policies before the company outings. If your company has a big holiday party, for example, issue an e-mail reiterating the importance of treating each other with dignity and respect.
Remember that different groups may view things differently. In some cultures, and for older generations, for instance, a compliment on holiday party attire may seem harmless. For other cultures and younger demographics, however, some compliments may seem to be sexual harassment. It’s a good idea to include examples of behavior to protect against in your handbook or on the web, so employees can access them easily.
Plan your outings in accordance with your culture
It’s important to plan all holiday outings to align with your company culture. If you enforce a rigorous no alcohol/no drugs policy, for instance, it may not be a good idea to feature oceans of free-flowing booze at your holiday party. Many companies offer wine as part of the meal but leave it to employees to purchase drinks if they want, so that free alcohol isn’t unlimited. Some develop celebrations in which alcohol does not play a part.
Similarly, if your organization is very family-focused, you might want to host an outing at which families are welcome rather than a party for employees only.
Barracuda Consulting Offers Training and More
In avoiding liability, it’s helpful to know how to develop policies concerning drugs, alcohol, and verbal, physical, or sexual harassment that protect both your company and its employees. Barracuda Consulting provides team training and targeted strategies to make all policies clear.
We can customize training to your needs. Contact our Tulsa consultants today to get started.