The Gatehouse Blog

What message does your festive bash send to employees?

Firstly, apologies for my radio silence over the last few weeks – we’ve been so busy at Gatehouse that I’ve really struggled to find time to blog.

December is an odd month isn’t it? There’s always something rather frantic about it – it’s that last minute rush to complete projects (or spend budget!) before the end of the year, and to get New Year plans in place before we all down tools for a few days over Christmas. Yet despite the heavy workloads, many of us are now gearing up (down?) for our annual festive bash. Yes, it’s party time! 

Seeing clients, friends and family head off for an evening of fun and frivolity and inevitably return with a major hangover, I can’t help wondering messages these parties send to employees (ok, I’ll admit it, that is rather sad). They may not be part of the internal communicator’s armory, but there’s no doubting that the behavior (or misbehavior) of leaders, managers and employees at these events can either reinforce or undo much of what we have worked so hard to communicate during the past 12 months.

Contradictions abound. Take the leader who bangs on about diversity and inclusiveness all year round and then gets hammered at the bar and tells racist jokes. Or the call center manager who severely reprimanded anyone who arrived late for a shift and then fails to turn up the morning after the night before. A mismatch between what you say and what you do is one of the easiest ways to disengage employees. And that’s without even mentioning the sex, drugs and fights, all of which I have witnessed at office parties over the years. They are a minefield in oh so many ways.

I remember one party I attended a few years ago where the CEO turned up clad head to toe in a figure-hugging Lycra bodysuit. Let’s just say it left little to the imagination. The venue was rather warm and, if his appearance was not already disturbing enough, the resulting sweat patches guaranteed near universal amusement. This brave move had a number of consequences – for sure no one who was there ever looked at him in quite the same way, but everyone knew he had a serious sense of humor and, thus, was genuinely human. Positives and negatives. 

That one was actually quite amusing and did no lasting harm, but the problem is that most actions are rarely as calculated – in what is usually a booze-fuelled environment, people often let their guard down a little too far. I did exactly that when I belted out that awful karaoke number a few years back. Believe me, it’s worth pausing for thought before you down that next glass of Champagne.

If you need more convincing here’s some useful legal advice published a few years ago on the excellent legal website from Pinsent Masons, Out-Law.com.