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Year-end work function not the place to be a clown

While December may be the silly season – an office end-of-year function is never an excuse to be a clown.

Francois Wilbers, MD at Work Dynamics – a consulting organisational psychologists company, says employees may enjoy being merry and indulge in alcohol – as long as it’s done responsibly.

He says it’s never cool to overindulge as you may regret it when you sober up.

“Know your consumption limits. The chance is good that you will embarrass yourself and others,” Wilbers says.

He recommends that you rather fill up on the free food and line the tummy before you start sipping on the happy juice.

“Do not consume alcohol on an empty stomach. It is very difficult to remedy the situation when you misbehaved at a social event. You can apologise and colleagues may even accept your apologies, but will they ever forget? Will they never talk about it again? As we all know, when people tell other people about something that happened it more often than not gets a “twist” to spice it up. If you ask me, I will recommend that in this case prevention is better than cure.”

It’s no secret that too much alcohol makes many people act out, while some dance on tables and others puke their guts out – there are sometimes more serious
offences like sexual harassment.

While you may have the sudden urge and bravery to approach the quiet employee you’ve had a crush on, or thinking about a one-night stand with anyone – you need to curb your urges.

Wilbers says both men and women should remember sexual harassment at social events like Christmas parties is often associated with alcohol abuse.

“Be cautious and/or avoid colleagues who are acting out of character because of the use of alcohol. Your rights of not being subjected to harassment are exactly
the same at a social event as at the office or in the general course of life,” he warns.

He says you can’t also argue that a woman was skimpily dressed and tempted your cravings.

“I do not think there are hard and fast rules about dress code. Sometimes a Christmas party may have a particular ‘theme’ according to which guests need
to dress up to.

“But usually, Christmas parties are also year-end functions where the special contributions of colleagues are awarded and where the function has a formal
character. Dress to the invite dress code – avoid being the odd one out,” he says.

It’s also not a good idea to use booze to swear at your managers or “give them a piece of your mind”.

“In my experience, the misbehaving at an office party because of alcohol abuse is often not acted upon in an extreme way like being red. But they are often called in and reprimanded after the event – the fact that they were under the influence often is regarded as “mitigating” circumstances.

But I am afraid the tide is turning. There is an increasing intolerance against the abuse of alcohol in socialising, drinking and driving, etc,” Wilbers says.

He also warns not to force others to drink.

“Be sensitive to colleagues who do not consume alcohol – maybe because of their religion or maybe because they are rehabilitated alcoholics. Respect
their decision not to use alcohol and don’t accuse them of being party poopers by not having a sip. It is simply unacceptable for people who are under the influence to spoil an event for other guests.”

And finally, instead of driving home drunk or sleeping at the venue or office, arrange alternative transport or make travel arrangements and get home safely, Wilbers says.

By Somaya Stockenstroom

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