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Serving alcohol at holiday parties

The holiday party is a particularly tricky ritual in workplace culture. It is a chance for colleagues to relax and socialize together, but it can be challenging and awkward to socialize with co-workers. Alcohol is traditionally part of the equation as a tool for getting people to relax or to even get them to participate.

However, in the #MeToo era it is harder to justify holding an event where there is a chance of an over-served staff or manager who does or says something that is inappropriate within the confines of the workplace. Moreover, there are safety and liability issues if someone is over-served and then attempts to drive or otherwise puts themselves or others in danger.

According to the Associated Press, some business owners are now looking to alternatives or simply not embracing the concept anymore. The latter choice is certainly not going to be great for employee morale, and may send a message that the staff cannot be trusted to behave; however, managers and owners can be more selective about the setting and how alcohol is served.

Alternatives to the traditional cocktail party

Here are some alternatives to an open bar or an alcohol-fueled party in the office:

  • Set limits: Set up a budget, time limit or provide drink tickets if the event has alcohol.
  • Serve only wine and beer: People can get intoxicated on these, but it takes time and the amount of consumption is easier to monitor.
  • Provide plenty of food: This is hospitality 101, but the planner or employer paying may not have experience planning events.
  • Choose an activity: Instead of drinking as the activity, choose an alternative such as providing entertainment or go to an arcade, an escape room or other situation that gives people something to do and talk about.

Rule changes about acceptable behavior carry over the holiday party

Employers who make changes to better address the safety and conduct of workers should also apply these changes to the holiday party. Depending on the company, it may even be a good idea to send out a reminder before the party or as part of the official invite. Some may complain, but complaints about social responsibility, inclusiveness and safety of all employees should be criticism that any employer would be happy to get.