Your Guide to Workplace Party Etiquette

Dave Pattle

We have reached that time of year when we seem to be attending function after function.  This ranges from your child’s year end ballet recital to the much-anticipated year end work function at the yacht club.

It would be a massive understatement to say that this year has been particularly tough for most businesses and their employees – we could all do with a bit of upliftment.  “Letting off a bit of steam” however can have disastrous consequences for an employee should they cross the proverbial line even where the offensive behaviour takes place after company hours and off company premises.  Of course, determining exactly when the line has been crossed will be influenced somewhat by the context of the function itself – after all many of these functions will have alcohol and well, we know what often happens next! 

Please remember the following:

  • Even though the function typically takes place after hours and off the company premises, employees remain employees for the duration of the function as well as the morning after!  Afterall, it is due to their employment status that they were invited to attend in the first place. It is possible that employees can contravene the employer’s code of conduct at such an event, even though the rules may be somewhat relaxed.  Having 10 tequilas to build up the “Dutch courage” to tell your boss what you really think of them is not acceptable.
  • It has regrettably been my experience that employees can do irreparable harm to the reputation of the employer by virtue of their conduct at such an event.  While the party might take place off the company premises it is likely to be held at a venue where the public would have access.     Members of the public may form an adverse opinion of the employer based on the conduct of their employees.  On the topic of “public” let’s not forget the fact that most employees have smart phones, and many won’t be able to resist taking photographs and putting such incriminating pictures on social media.  NO streaking!
  • With the consumption of alcohol some will experience accompanying diminished inhibitions and impaired faculties.  For some this may mean that they conduct themselves in such a manner that they may be guilty of sexual harassment. If the conduct in question happens in a public place – this just makes it potentially so much worse.  Remember those cell phones!
  • Some will take the year end celebrations to a whole new level in that their nocturnal activities may not be confined to the dance floor, if you get my drift.  In the event that any of your male employees are expectant fathers, you would need to apply your mind to issues of parental leave.

Some considerations, and how we can help you:

  • Do you have a disciplinary policy in place and is its full application understood?  We can assist you in developing a company specific disciplinary policy and procedure as well as capacitate your employees in terms of its application.
  • Should an employee contravene company policy, we have the requisite resources and expertise to not only prepare you to deal with the matter fairly, but you could outsource the matter to us to either initiate on behalf of the company or to chair the proceedings.
  • With the presence of technology in the workplace, employers must give serious consideration to introducing policies to regulate the use of such technology.  Such policies would cover the use of company property as well as employees and their personal devices especially on the topic of social media.  We can prepare these company specific policies for you.
  • Sexual harassment is a topic that has been receiving much attention of late.  Rightly so!  Remember the employer can be held accountable for the conduct of its employees.  How many of your employees really understand the definition of sexual harassment and what rights they have if they have been sexually harassed?  Employers need to step up here.  We can draft your policy and we can train your employees.
  • Finally, while there is still much confusion concerning parental leave it is something that needs to be considered now.  Consideration ought to be given to notice periods and the like as well as the impact of having someone absent for 10 days.  What about your payroll department?  Do they understand the changes and what it means for them?  Again, we can assist you in terms of policy development as well as training your employees in relation to this important piece of legislation.

Enjoy your holidays.  Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!

More information on how solutions services can be found here. 

[email protected] | 082 577 8568


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