An anti-etiquette guide to Christmas parties

2nd December, 2016

The festive season is upon us. This phrase always sounds a tiny bit menacing to me, as though we’re about to be mown down by a roll of prickly tinsel.

In any case, the season brings festive functions aplenty.

I recently read an article for employers about how to plan a work Christmas function while “minimising the risks” and frankly I was intrigued at how Christmas party ‘risk minimisation’ might apply to a small business.

Tip 1: Offer reminders about expected standards of conduct in terms of breaches of health and safety, sexual harassment and dress

In a large workplace this would involve a memo or perhaps a meeting that included the most sensational PowerPoint presentation of “Don’ts” ever, but for a small business I suspect you could get away with acting out the following scene:

YOU: Hey, [insert name of part-time admin assistant here].


YOU: You know that thing you did at our Christmas lunch last year?

PTAA: Yeah?

YOU: And you know what you were wearing when you did it?

PTAA: Yeah?

YOU: Don’t do any of that again.

Tip 2: Decisions to include physical activities should be carefully considered given the workers compensation liability for injuries in this environment

Chances are that as a small business owner you’re not shouting your office a skydiving extravaganza as part of your Christmas festivities.

But you can still organise a physical activity – why not dress up as Santa and give it a bit of “Ho, ho, ho! Come on: let’s go and take out the bins!”

Tip 3: Delegation of food and drink planning to employees should always be overseen by a senior manager

In a large workplace this would probably involve the management of a good-sized food and beverage budget, but for a small business I’d be aiming for something along the lines of:

YOU: Hey, [insert name of part-time admin assistant here].


YOU: Christmas party’s on Friday. Don’t forget the Pringles.

Tip 4: Be careful when it comes to “Secret Santa” gift giving

For once, I think this is where working in a small business is preferable.

Consider the public service employee who accepted a voluntary redundancy to escape his work environment after being anonymously given a novelty reindeer that dispensed chocolate from its rear as a Secret Santa gift, along with a note that implied the recipient’s work was poo.

Secret Santa gifts are of course anonymous, so that employee never knew which one of his colleagues thought so poorly of him.

If you work from home, preserving the ‘secret’ part of “Secret Santa” is pretty tough when it’s just you and your admin assistant:

YOU: (Unwrapping) Hey, thanks for the personalised stapler!

PART-TIME ADMIN ASSISTANT: But it wasn’t…ok, it was me.

Tip 5: To impose a limit on the amount of alcohol available to each employee, employers might consider a personalised drink voucher system

Let me tell you something: regardless of whether you’re at the helm of a large business or a tiny startup, you would only ever do this if you straight-up hated your employees!

Need more Christmas party survival tips?
Here’s your spiffy GIFfy checklist to get through the silly season unscathed.