Remain professional at workplace holiday events
WITH MELISSA PAVLICEK
SHRM-CP, PRESIDENT OF HAWAII PUBLIC POLICY ADVOCATES LLC, WHICH SERVES AS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE SOCIETY FOR HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT HAWAII CHAPTER.
With heightened national attention on harassment, especially sexual harassment, in the workplace, many employers are adopting or more strictly enforcing policies prohibiting alcohol consumption and closely scrutinizing longstanding traditions like holiday office parties. Holiday events are not now, and never were, an acceptable excuse for inappropriate or disrespectful behavior. This is a great time to re-examine your workplace holiday plans.
Q: Our company party is after the work day, so why can’t I celebrate freely?
A: Your behavior is being noticed by your colleagues and supervisors. Dressing appropriately, refraining from disrespectful jokes and steering clear of the wine bar, if there is one, is safer than being perceived as a party animal in terms of your career. Consider whether the evening of so-called fun is worth the risk to the reputation you have been working hard to establish. Your behavior is not just a reflection on you. Employers are taking a close look at their responsibility to provide a safe and harassment-free workplace. Your behavior will be judged in the context of people who hear and receive your comments and jokes.
Q: My company provides discount coupons and monetary credit for car sharing, so doesn’t that mean the organization’s leaders are fine with my drinking at the company party?
A: Whether your company is generously offering to assist with transportation or not, you also have a responsibility to make wise choices. The real question is not whether your company culture encourages drinking, but rather if you behave as if your reputation depends on whether you encourage drinking — and here’s a hint: it does.
Q: My boss is the worst one when it comes to drinking and behaving badly, so what do I do?
A: Your organization’s policies and reporting procedures should help to guide your actions. If you have already been harassed or observe harassment of another employee, explore and seek to understand those policies and procedures so that you can take action. Consult with an attorney for specific legal advice. Media attention on harassment is promoting awareness, but it is up to both organizations and individual people in them to prevent and put a stop to bad workplace behavior.