In light of heightened awareness of sexual harassment, Virginia Tech's William Becker, an expert in organizational behaviour and human resource management, says it's important for organizations to lay out rules for acceptable behaviour at these functions.
Becker, an associate professor in Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business, encourages managers to "emphasize that the purpose of the parties is to come together and celebrate their shared membership in the organization and remind them that it is a work function."
As some offices consider cancelling their traditional holiday gatherings, Becker calls that unnecessary. "I think it is extreme and short-sighted to cancel parties in order to avoid instances of poor behaviour. Perhaps these organizations need to step back and look closely at their culture."
Becker offers these tips to companies:
- Remind employees in advance of social gatherings that the organization has no tolerance for any inappropriate conduct.
- Be extremely proactive when setting guidelines and limiting or monitoring alcohol consumption.
- Make certain employees understand attendance is optional. It should not in any way be considered a condition of their employment.
- Encourage spouses or significant others to attend.
- Hold events in a family friendly setting.