Why You Got Fired After the Holiday Work Party

fired, workplace, party

It’s that time of year when employees begin celebrating after hours with their co-workers, managers and other work colleagues at the company holiday party. While employees are eager with anticipation for a chance to let loose at the upcoming holiday party, it’s your HR and manager’s biggest nightmare. As employees plot spiking the eggnog and search for the perfect Secret Santa gift, managers are anxiety-ridden with the potential workplace issues, drama and fall out that a holiday party combined with alcohol for work brings.

Why You Got Fired After the Holiday and Christmas Work Party

Managers, especially your human resources department, walk on eggshells anticipating the next employee investigation, sexual harassment claim, or termination that comes with the annual office soiree.

Not a year has gone by where I haven’t dealt with a holiday party workplace debacle.  From inappropriate touching and sexual harassment complaints, to the holiday punch being spiked, I’ve seen it all.  A few years back I dealt with a male worker who left suggestive post it notes on a female employee’s computer as a result of advances and conversation during the holiday party.  These messages were small yet very direct.  He crossed the line and even began harassing her via social media and text message.  He was promptly terminated for his actions. By now you can probably see why HR and your manager loathe the annual workplace holiday party.

Holiday parties are cause for celebration but they also lend to bad decisions and employee actions that have consequences.

Company Party Holiday Tips

Holiday parties are fun and a chance to celebrate with co-workers and friends, and anticipate the year ahead, especially with the bull economy we are experiencing. Regardless of how secure your position is, it’s important to consider any work, even if it is after hours, as an opportunity to further demonstrate your professionalism and value to the company.

  • 2 Drink Maximum.  Exert self-control and opt to limit yourself to two alcoholic beverages at your holiday workplace event.  With alcohol, inhibitions are decreased.  Keep from saying or doing something you will regret come Monday.
  • Use the Wingman Strategy.  While on the surface your workplace holiday party might look like a social event, it is a political and networking opportunity that revolves around work and your career.  Opt to bring a responsible friend, wingman, or spouse who can help you work the room, elevate your personal brand, and keep you in check.  Prep them beforehand on the politics and game plan before the holiday party begins.
  • Hands Off and Eyes Up.  Employees are often dressed to the nines, wearing less than you’re used to.  Keep your eyes up and hands off at all costs.  Don’t check that sexual harassment training at the door, and remember to keep your conversation and compliments professional.  You are on company time even if you are not clocked in.
  • Your Evening Dress Should Be Professional.  Remember, all the world is a stage. The  event is after hours, but it’s still work related.  Conservative evening attire is best.  Keep that in mind as you choose your outfit.  What kind of assets do you want to be remembered for during your annual employee review?  I imagine that any manager would have a hard time focusing during a meeting if your employee showed up in the holiday costume above.  Keep it professional at all times.
  • Exit Early.  Nothing good ever happens after midnight.  Know your limit and excuse yourself before the inevitable embarrassment happens – hopefully involving someone else.  Make an appearance, keep it professional, and make an exit.  Consider making plans to meet up with your work friends – minus your boss – somewhere else after the event.

Holiday Party Horror Stories

I once had a regional manager who got sick on stage during karaoke  at a formal corporate holiday event.  While he didn’t lose his job, it was certainly embarrassing. Employees nicknamed him Barf.  Successfully navigating the company holiday party sounds like a job, doesn’t it? Well, that’s exactly what it is.  It’s work, and we all want to keep working.  Give your boss something good to remember you by as the company’s fiscal year comes to a close, especially in this new transparent workplace where it’s easier than ever to have your personal dirty laundry aired on the internet, social media and with livestreaming technologies like Periscope, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook Live. Don’t become a January termination statistic as a result of your actions at the office holiday party.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.


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