Disgracing yourself at the work end-of-year party is hard to come back from write Cassandra Mason and Rebecca Malcolm

Party-going employees are being warned the Christmas staff bash is "not a night out with your mates".

But a local business leader says people are just as likely to get tanked on any given weekend than they are at an end of year work shout.

The comments follow the case of a manager who was recently accused of sexual harassment after he wore a "graphic and prominent phallic symbol" on the front of his Santa suit at the office Christmas party.

Angela Roskam told an Employment Relations Authority hearing she was forced to resign from the Alsco laundry in Dunedin in January after she accused production manager Tony Fallows of sexual harassment.

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The ERA ruled the incident did not constitute sexual harassment.

Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Roger Gordon said getting carried away at the bar was more a problem with people in general than a characteristic of staff Christmas functions.

"Some people get carried away every Saturday night. Those people will do that anyway, even if it's not a staff do. But that's human nature."

Talent ID recruitment specialist Mandy Pol said the tone of the Christmas party very much depended on the company and the way the senior executives in the company approached it.

She said some companies put on taxi chits or vans to make sure people got home safely, especially if the party was being held off site.

Ms Pol said everyone had heard stories of workplace Christmas parties that have gone wrong.

"There's always someone who takes things a bit too far."

She said one idea was getting businesses to put in place limits similar to what bars did, including plans to stop serving drunk people and making sure they didn't hop in their cars afterwards.

"It's great to have a good night but it is about having a good time, not an event that you are going to regret."

Career specialist and author Tom O'Neil said employees needed to remember that the office Christmas party was "not a night out with your mates".

"A friend of mine was at a work function where a guy was stripped of all his clothes, put on a packing bench, tags attached to various parts, black vivid tattoos all over. Then his wife arrived to pick him up."

The work bash was a chance to market yourself and have fun, not destroy your personal brand, he said.

"Everything you do with your colleagues there will impact your ability to deliver the goods during the other 364 days of the year."

Keeping a few things in mind could help you to avoid disaster, he said.

"Don't talk to your manager after 10pm ... you will end up getting a few beers in and telling them how they can improve their management style."

Eating before you hit the bar, alternating your drinks with water and buddying up with someone who could let you know if you've crossed the line could also protect your dignity.

And if you did disgrace yourself, it was crucial to show up on Monday and deal with the fallout, Mr O'Neil said.

But ruining your reputation isn't the worst that can happen. In December 2000, broker Gareth MacFadyen, 24, died after a colleague lit his grass skirt on fire at the Merrill Lynch Christmas party in Auckland.

Mr MacFadyen was in the toilet cubicle with a female colleague when Matthew Schofield reached under the partition and set his work buddy's costume alight. The pair suffered horrific burns and Mr MacFadyen died three days later. Mr Schofield was jailed for two years for manslaughter.

How to avoid making a fool of yourself:
- Don't stuff yourself. This isn't a chance to make up for what you think you should be paid by drinking and eating your way through the evening.
- Eat a big lunch so you don't start drinking on an empty stomach.
- Dress appropriately.
- Talk to senior staff earlier in the night, rather than later.
- If you do behave badly, deal with it early and show up on Monday.