GroundFloor Media & CenterTable Blog

My favorite HR lesson came from a soon-to-be-retired lawyer at a Fortune 200 technology company. Tasked with giving an annual reminder to managers about appropriate behavior at our company’s various holiday parties, he decided to condense a 60-minute training down to about five minutes – and it largely centered around his “Two-drink Theorem.”

The theory held that sexual harassment allegations would overwhelmingly be the problem that arose from our company’s parties. And his rules of thumb were:

  1. Someone accused of sexual harassment who has consumed one drink or less will be determined not to have committed sexual harassment (although their behavior may still be loutish).
  2. Someone accused of sexual harassment who has consumed three or more drinks will be determined to have committed sexual harassment.
  3. It is the person who has consumed two drinks that causes the most problems when trying to assess guilt.

His primary takeaway? Only let people have a single drink at holiday parties. Or give them three so his legal staff could just immediately settle claims rather than wasting their time investigating them first. I think he was kidding about that part.

I was reminded of this theory recently when I saw that staffing firm Robert Half has released a

survey of the most embarrassing holiday party gaffes that managers have experienced. Not surprisingly, the list is full of alcohol-fueled disasters.

With office holiday season right around the corner, Robert Half also lists suggestions for managers who are involved in holiday parties. Some of those include:

  • You’re still the boss. Show your lighter side, but remember employees will look to you as an example even outside of the office.
  • Don’t be a barfly. Never overindulge in alcohol. Many of the mishaps came after someone had too much to drink.
  • Keep the focus on staff. Celebrate your team, and give them their moment. By ceding the spotlight, you’ll show how much you appreciate their contributions.
  • You need to go back to work the next day. A tabletop nap, alcohol-powered soliloquy or inappropriate dance routine may feel like a one-time blunder, but you’ll need to face everyone as soon as you’re back in the office. In other words, don’t be that guy or girl everyone is gossiping about the next morning.

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