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Mixing Parties and Policies

Posted on September 4, 2008 by Ellen

The professional world of eCommerce can often be more relaxed than other businesses.  With fun and work being commonly intermingled, it’s sometimes like a mullet: Business in the front, party in the back.  Among the various in-house amenities like basketball and foosball, outside parties are also useful for maintaining a “fun” work environment.  

This is where it gets messy.  How do we apply in-house policies to outside parties while still utilizing the “hangout outside of work” feel?  Where can we draw the line between camaraderie and debauchery?  Company party misfits can not only ruin the occasion, but can expose the company to costly liabilities.

I have come up with four standards that can be used when laying down the law at work parties that still allow for parties to be productive:

  • Be Prepared:  Where my boy scouts at?  Anything can happen, so limiting unwanted variables can contribute to the success of the event.  A well organized party with specific activities, such as well defined games and interactions, will lessen the chances of having inappropriate behavior.  Our most recent example of this was at our company anniversary party.  While the party was casual with excitement at the pool and food at one’s convenience, we had a set schedule of our own Backyard Olympic Games.  Teams participated up through the championships while others watched and cheered.  Given that party goers had the opportunity to focus on fun and friendly competition not much room was left for unwanted actions or behavior.

  • Gordian Project 4th Anniversary Pool Party

    Gordian Project Backyard Olympics

  • Executives and Upper Management Set the Tone and Demeanor:  If your boss brings a flask to the 4th of July picnic that gives everyone else the OK to do the same thing even though this type of behavior is not ordinarily acceptable at the office. 
  • Encourage Family Participation:  A good way to keep it G rated is to invite the kids along.  Not only does this help set the tone for a G rated event, but it promotes family.  Family promotion can be especially important for the husband/wife dynamic; this creates an environment devoid of the stress of the feared ‘Company Party Sexual Harassment”.  Not only does this add sensibility to the occasion, but employees will generally have a better appreciation of the festivities if their families are not only invited but encouraged to attend company functions.  It’s a win-win. 
  • No Exceptions - Be Consistent:  Give your Employees a chance to succeed.  All of us in HR can sympathize with the difficulty that comes from ever changing rules and regulations. . Keep that in mind when legislating your own company rules.  Just as enforcing the rules consistently among employees is obviously important, keeping the expectations the same from party to party is just as vital. 

The human resources rep doesn’t have to be the stick in the mud at the party and with the proper planning and expectations no one will have to take on that role either.  Summer’s coming to an end so keep these tips in mind as we move toward the up and coming holiday parties.


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