As the year draws to an end, workplaces around Australia will be planning for their end of year break up events to celebrate and reward employees for their efforts throughout the year.
Workplace conferences and other similar activities are great forums for sharing knowledge and strengthening working relationships. However, they also present a significant area of risk to individuals and the organisation in terms of the potential for inappropriate behaviour.
Our investigators, at iHR Australia, are seeing an increase in the number of complaints of inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment associated with attendance at off-site work-sanctioned activities and the consumption of alcohol during these activities.
When staff attend a work sanctioned functions, it is important that they conduct themselves in an appropriate manner at all times. It is easy to have one drink too many, with subsequent conduct potentially damaging an individual’s reputation and continued employment should they act inappropriately. For many, there is a direct link between alcohol and a change in personality, with the potential for workplace disputes to escalate and become inflamed as a result. What is often misguided as courage to express one’s true feelings regarding a boss or colleague, might simply be an alcohol induced misjudgement. Tales of scandals circulate swiftly through offices and reputations may be negatively impacted as a result.
If it is your task to organise your work Christmas party, you should be careful not to provide your staff members with too great a supply of alcohol. In addition, you may be required to monitor the alcohol intake of employees and manage those people who have had too much to drink.
Your organisations bullying and harassment policies will still apply at work sanctioned functions. Staff must remember and be reminded that what may be deemed as friendly could be misconstrued as harassment and misconduct in the eyes of other individuals and a breach of the organisations policies and procedures. Being outside the office does not make attendees immune to the application of their employer’s rules and individuals may be at risk of disciplinary action by their employer.
iHR Australia offers specific training in Bullying and Harassment, with the program Workplace Sexual Harassment – Evolving Obligations detailing both the responsibilities for Managers and Employees.
Dr Leigh Hodder is Senior Workplace Relations Adviser and Consulting Psychologist with more than 20 years’ experience across a range of industries, which include government, not for profit and private sectors. In addition to facilitating iHR Australia’s Mental Health and Well-Being training, Dr Hodder also conducts independent workplace investigations and mediations through iHR Australia.