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How to ensure your career survives Christmas
During the holiday season, it seems like everyone is encouraged to let their hair down and loosen up. But there are actually more chances at this time of the year for issues to arise that can have serious consequences for your career.
Here we look at a few of the riskiest workplace situations that arise over the holidays and our advice for making it through unscathed, so you can return in January with no worries.
Most of us see gift-giving as a pretty innocuous activity, especially the nothing-over-$10 kind associated with Kris Kringle and Secret Santa. After all, how much damage can you do armed with a $10 note? But in 2012, one public servant resigned after he received a "soul-destroying" gag gift from a colleague, which contained faux-animal excrement that was likened to his work.
It's important to remember that not everyone shares the same sense of humour and what one person finds funny can be very hurtful to someone else. A gentle reminder of the kinds of gifts that are appropriate and the need to be thoughtful and considerate when organising the Secret Santa is a good idea, and be sure to include a spending limit.
You should also be wary when it comes to giving gifts to co-workers or employees. Any perceived inconsistency or showing of favouritism, even when unintentional, can breed resentment at a time of year when emotions already tend to run high.
If you are going to give gifts to co-workers - whether it is your boss or a colleague you consider an especially close friend - it is advisable to do so in private and out of sight of others who are not receiving gifts. If you are a manager giving your team members gifts to say thanks for a great year, be sure to do so away from other teams who may not be getting the same treatment from their manager, unless it is something common amongst all teams.
The End-of-Year Party
The opportunities for upset at the end-of-year or Christmas party are numerous and well-known. We've all heard the horror stories of employees (and bosses!) who drink too much, say outrageous things, act inappropriately and find themselves out of a job before the year is done.
However, there are some instances where the employee can't be held responsible for their bad behaviour. In July, the Fair Work Commission ruled on a case where an employee who was abusive and sexually harassed female staffers at the work Christmas party was dismissed. The FWC found that the man's employer could not reasonably insist on standards of conduct being upheld when they provided an unlimited supply of alcohol. This doesn't mean that you should throw caution to the wind during the party, drink to excess and blame it on your boss for supplying the booze. The law may keep you employed, but it won't save your reputation.
Employers should ensure they have robust policies in place that speak to behaviour at work functions and that these are communicated prior to the event and clearly indicated that they are applicable to it. In addition, employers should ensure they do not create an environment that compromises these policies, such as offering unlimited alcohol.
We've all heard the horror stories of employees (and bosses!) who drink too much, say outrageous things, act inappropriately and find themselves out of a job before the year is done.
Many workers look forward to 'kicking on' after the work party and continuing the celebrations with their colleagues after the official celebrations have ended. However, this can be a grey area for employers. We advise that you make clear prior to the main work party that the company does not endorse any after-party. It can also help to separate the two if managers do not attend any after-parties. This may not be a popular choice, especially for managers who are close with their teams, but it does ensure that there are no blurred lines for those involved.
There have been a few suggestions lately that companies should do away with holiday parties and celebrations all together, simply to avoid the chance of anything going awry. But as employers become more attuned to the important role culture plays in keeping workers engaged and retained, companies are likely to gain more from allowing the celebrations to proceed with a few precautionary procedures than to let the year end without any chance for employees to celebrate all they've achieved.
Employees and employers alike share the responsibility of ensuring that holiday activities and celebrations are inclusive, appropriate and enjoyed by all.
- Secret Santa: be careful with joke gifts as not every shares the same sense of humour and may be offended
- Gift giving: be discreet when giving gifts to co-workers, especially if not everyone is receiving one
- End-of-year party: employees should drink and celebrate responsibly and remember they're still 'at work', while employers should make clear what standards of behaviour are required and not supply unlimited alcohol
- After-party: companies should distance themselves from any unofficial after parties and advise managers not to attend.