school formals

Workplace Party Time

As the Spring Racing Carnival makes its annual appearance it reminds us that the workplace party season is almost upon us. Regardless of our occupation, or place of work, it’s almost certain that we will attend one or more end of year celebrations very soon. Some of us will be involved in organising those functions.

Just as the Melbourne Cup event at Flemington has gained an unenviable reputation for scenes of risky alcohol consumption, the workplace party is also known as a risky event. Too many people actively dislike or fear the end of year event due to previous experiences of gross behaviour.

Courts have had to deal with the aftermath of work parties that go horribly wrong and involve cases of abuse, intimidation, assault, sexual assault, rape and victimisation. Many cases don’t get to court but are settled beforehand, often to the cost of the employer.

Last weekend the media reported on a work end-of-year function that ended in a needless death of a young worker. After the man aged in his early twenties had become drunk at the event and his employer told him to go home, the worker was struck and killed by a train. It follows other cases including a recent one in New South Wales where a worker died at a work conference after drinking at a work dinner.

Some people take the view they can ‘party on’ because “HR will handle it tomorrow”. But sometimes it’s too big for their Human Relations people to handle, and they shouldn’t have to try. It’s not just their role to bail out people who insult or assault their colleagues, because they go too far. Organisations need to ensure they have alcohol management policies in place and that the policies are known by all staff.

So what will your workplace party be this year? An event structured around alcohol- you can bet that will fill a lot of people with fear and loathing, and they will probably leave it as soon as possible. If it’s truly a celebration of the year’s efforts and achievements, everyone should feel welcome and enjoy it. Aim for an inclusive event which adds to staff morale rather than one that divides.

Obviously if alcohol is consumed, safe serving practices are essential– plenty of low alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks, plenty of food, take care not to push people to drink, and step in if someone looks like they are drinking too much. It’s helpful to organise some activities that ensure people aren’t standing around with nothing to do except drink.

Even better your event could be based on a particular activity in which everyone is able to participate, such as bowls, bowling, go-karting, croquet. If people are mixing and enjoying themselves count the event as a huge success.

Geoff Munro

Ps  This is the second last GrogWatch for the year – we are finishing early this year as we will be launching our new ADF website in a couple of weeks so stay tuned.