- According to a study of 1,000 corporate American workers, 60% of them experienced improved relationships with coworkers after attending office parties. Additionally, 1 in 10 received a promotion after an office party.
- The fallout from office parties isn’t always positive: 35% of workers experience strained relationships, 26% are reprimanded somehow, 17% lose a client, and 14% get fired.
- To increase the likelihood of positive outcomes, office parties must be preceded by a code of etiquette — one where mutual respect is actively acknowledged, alcohol is moderated, and liable behaviors are discouraged.
If your company hosted a party for employees over the holidays, chances are high that one event is still impacting your office dynamics.
Office parties are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there’s an opportunity to improve relationships between coworkers. Recent research from Fractl demonstrates that 60% of workers experience improved relationships after attending office parties.
On the other hand, office parties are also places where activities like drinking and perhaps even drug consumption occur, which can result in occurrences of job loss (14%), losing out on clients (17%), and straining relationships at home (35%).
Offices can increase the likelihood of positive results and decrease adverse outcomes by imposing guidelines on office-party conduct. Whether it’s a happy hour meet up, a March Madness lunch potluck, or a family Fourth of July event, setting behavioral guidelines is important for any type of gathering with work colleagues.
Here are some policies to implement before throwing the next office party:
1. Disincentivize behaviors that are liabilities
Even though most respondents to Fractl’s research showed positive outcomes, a significant minority did not. The best way to tip the scales here positively is by disincentivizing the behaviors most commonly associated with adverse effects in office parties.
According to the survey, here are the top ten behaviors most likely to get an employee fired after an office party:
- Dancing with a coworker
- Flashing someone
- Kissing a client
- Making inappropriate jokes
- Kissing a coworker
- Flirting with the boss
- Hooking up with a client
- Dancing with a client
- Flirting with a coworker
- Tripping on LSD or hallucinogenic drugs
While many of these are common sense to avoid, grey areas can emerge around behaviors like dancing with a coworker, which may not be seen as an issue to many — 33% of workers report having done at office parties.
2. Moderate alcohol
Should dancing be disincentivized entirely, or do the instances where dancing coworkers were fired have more to do with the 22% of respondents who get drunk at office parties, or the 11% who blackout?
Dancing alone is innocent. Getting drunk and blacking out is empirically associated with misbehavior. Plus, it is deeply unprofessional to get intensely intoxicated around coworkers.
Yet, 43% of respondents report that “alcohol was necessary to make office parties bearable.”
Moderating alcohol means drinking so as not to get drunk or blackout; one to three drinks are enough for most as a social lubricant. A reprimand from employers is warranted when misbehavior results from exceeding one’s personal limits.
3. Mutual respect must be acknowledged and encouraged
Office parties by their definition spur social engagement, but breaking the ice with coworkers can make people anxious, which might explain why 44% of workers need alcohol to attend office parties.
However, it’s worth trying to socialize because having good relationships with coworkers can sometimes become the start of long-lasting friendships — something that is intrinsically valuable.
Setting the stage to make office parties more conducive to improving coworker relationships requires that attendees have mutual respect for one another, and can find stress-free ways to interact.
This is best evidenced by when psychological safety is present. When workers can speak and engage with one another openly as equals, this acknowledges and encourages mutual respect, which discourages misbehavior at office parties.