Holiday Parties — Naughty, Nice and Nonexistent

Figured the same day I opened up our holiday-party email (we’re having our small departmental one but nixing the gift exchange) would be a good day to share a few holiday-party notes I’ve been compiling to kick off the season.

I guess top of the list, and in keeping with the nixing theme, has to be this survey from OfficeTeam that finds 52 percent of executives saying their employers are not holding holiday celebrations at all this year. I guess the rercovery is still recovering.

But should yours be one of the companies deciding not to dampen the spirit (the OfficeTeam survey says 79 percent of managers and 75 percent of employees whose companies throw holiday parties indicate they enjoy them), here, courtesy of, are a few choice notes on how not to ruin your own reputation. There’s no harm in sharing them with all employees before you let the partying begin.

Probably the more obvious caution from Susan M. Heathfield lays out her “Top Seven Office Party Gaffes” — the most obvious of which is the don’t-drink-too-much one. “One executive,” she writes, “after drinking too many martinis, stripped naked and climbed his city’s water tower.”

I would add that any office-party planner should think long and hard before adding alcohol to the festivities and fare. Angie Strunk, vice president of Sheakley HR Solutions, writes in a recent email that HR professionals should review everything — harassment, retaliation, workplace violence, safety issues, dress code as well as alcohol use — before the party, considering every one of these issues can become exacerbated when alcohol hits the flames.

Flirting with co-workers or their significant others at the office party is another of Heathfield’s top seven. “I remember when two employees, both married, commenced an affair following an office party. No matter how quiet they tried to keep their involvement, the company was not that large; people knew and people gossiped … .”

Then there are the gifts you should never give to your boss or co-worker for fear of sending a wrong or inappropriate message. Lahle Wolfe of lists eight such no-nos. Top of that list (no-duh) are the “adult” items (toys, art, books, etc.) that, at best, are inappropriate and, at worst, illegal. Think, too, before you wrap up that funny small book that could be considered offensive to women, minorities, people of certain faiths or individuals with disabillities. Give something like that to your boss, even if he or she is your BFF work spouse, and you might be looking for other employment come January.

Personal care products, intimate clothing and romantic jewelry can also be fraught with suggestive overtones, or just plain wrong for the recipient. “That scented hand lotion you love,” writes Wolfe, “might seem like a good idea, but when given to a person with allergies or asthma, you are giving a gift that cannot be used.”

“A good rule of thumb,” she writes, “is to ask yourself if the gift is something you would let a child see. [If not], it may not be appropriate to give to someone at work.”

Considering their many complications, I guess it’s possible the apparent decline of holiday parties has nothing to do with the ecomony at all and everything to do with headache-avoidance … hangover headaches included.