These simple steps in the article will help you ‘navigate’ the silly season and help to have all of your employees feel that they ‘matter’ to you.

We have hit the ‘silly season’ and there is a very good reason that it is called just that. We typically eat, drink and party more enthusiastically than at any other time of the year. I had a friend, that you would describe as having ‘hollow legs’ when it came to alcohol consumption; he said it was his least favourite time to drink, as people who shouldn’t – do! There is much to be said for this, as most of us have done or said something that they wished they hadn’t, after ‘one too many’. Remember too; it is often paid for by the company, so people see it as even more a reason to over indulge.

Whilst I am well aware that times have changed drastically, still many people are not; I can clearly remember working for a stockbroker very early in my career, being asked at the interview “are you offended by rude jokes or foul language?” I answered “no” and got the job and after working there for a couple of years, saw it all and more! It was like that then – it isn’t now.

The main issue here is that the office Christmas party, regardless of being held out of the normal place of work, is still considered an extension of the workplace: – that’s right, this is work, real work and it needs to be treated that way.

Here are five actions to ensure that your employees behave at their office Christmas party and that everyone is happy to see each other the next day at work:

Communicate to employees prior to the Christmas party event – via email and in person, about your expectations around behaviour; specifically what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

Develop & uphold a Sexual Harassment Policy that all employees are aware of. All organisations should have a Sexual Harassment Policy to be compliant with FWA legislation. But beware: – if you have a policy you need to follow it consistently. There is no defence to having a policy and not adhering to it completely.

Undertake Sexual Harassment training annually and, most importantly, have your employees confirm and sign that they have attended and understood the content of that training. If your organisation is taken to court regarding a complaint and you can show that you had done your utmost to appropriately educate your employees, you will reduce your risk & the possible amount of compensation.

Encourage intervention – where appropriate at the Christmas party from fellow employees, if events are getting out of hand. Encourage your team members to look out for one another and not stand by ineffectively. If someone should be assisted into a cab a little early to avoid embarrassment or to avoid an escalation of inappropriate behaviour, so be it.

Quickly conduct a proper investigation if there is an informal or formal complaint and resolve the situation as quickly as possible. If there has been an incident, it can often be dealt with quickly & quietly to the satisfaction of all parties internally. There are very specific rules around complaints and complaint handling you should be across.

I have seen, in my career, many examples of companies losing quality employees who chose to resign quietly, rather than raise a complaint because they felt that they would not be taken seriously or that the culture of the company actively condoned or acquiesced to inappropriate behaviour, innuendo, inappropriate jokes, and unwanted advances or touching.