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Planning A Safe Holiday Office Party

Nov 15, 2007
In today's litigious society - and simply because you care - planning the holiday office party must include thoughts toward the safety of guests, especially if you're serving liquor.

Here are some tips to aid your planning:

First of all, someone always gets assigned to PLAN the party, but you need to assign someone to MONITOR the party. Kind of like the chaperones at the high school prom. Make sure both parties understand your requirements for safety.

Make sure nutritious and filling foods are on the menu, such as sandwiches, cheese, and sausage. Liquor hits an empty stomach faster; food also provides something else to do besides drink. Avoid salty snacks because they make us thirsty. The overall atmosphere does make a difference and you should keep the focus off the liquor.

Given that this study ( http://www.psu.edu/dept/medialab/research/alconsum.html ) showed that the highest consumption of alcohol occurs in (1) males (2) who watch more sports on television and (3) are familiar with ads, i.e., have been exposed to them, if you want a disaster (1) set up an open bar where the men can pour their own drinks, (2) add a bigscreen TV with sports showing, (3) put out a few bowls of salted peanuts and popcorn, and (3) promote it beforehand as a You-Know-Wink-Wink, and allow others to talk it up that way. This means that if you affair has the reputation of being a Big Drunk, you need to make sure they know this year it isn't going to be like that.

To alleviate this situation, consider adding games, gift-giving, a lavish buffet where the emphasis is on the Australian Rack of Lamb and Russian caviar from Il Tuscano (etc.) and add entertainment, preferably of the more sedate type. Breaking up the party from time-to-time with these events works well too. People won't tend to stand in line at the bars as often.

Take a lead in monitoring and directing pre-party anticipatory discussion around the water cooler. Be present and listen up! You can redirect just like you would with a bunch of 4-year-olds getting heavy into the poo-poo jokes. Move in, physically, and then change the subject if it doesn't change on its own.

Do NOT let guests mix their own drinks. Instead plant your own carefully-chosen bartender who is chintzy with the liquor and also will keep track of how much someone is getting, and how often and will alert you (and cut the person off if need be). You should also move around and check this out yourself. Just as in a bar, someone who is showing signs of being tipsy should be denied further liquor.

If you're a manager with Emotional Intelligence, you know your people, and should have a good idea of who might be trouble, or cause trouble. Spend more time with them at the beginning of the party, making sure they know you are there (and they know what you know), and then check in with them during the event to see, first-hand, how they are doing.

Even if you're offering liquor, it's a smart idea to have plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives. It's also thoughtful as more people these days don't drink. Don't go around encouraging people to "drink up" and don't let anyone else do it. Sometimes someone will appoint themselves "host with the most," grab a bottle and start circulating through the crowd topping off glasses.

Liquor punches are a good idea, especially if they are weak and if they are fruit-juice based because that will cause the alcohol to be absorbed more slowly into the blood stream. Know who is making the punch and what they are putting in it. It's an old college trick to use Everclear, because it's cheap plus has a higher liquor content.

Ask guests to appoint designated drivers, and if any guests are too inebriated at the end of the party to drive safely, in your opinion, call a taxi, assign them to a sober driver, drive them home, or tell them they'll be sleeping over. If your party's in a hotel, you can book some rooms ahead of time as contingency. The money spent on taxis and rooms is well worth it considering the cost of a life, or a lawsuit.

You should close the bar and stop serving drinks at least 90 minutes before the stated end of the party (without announcing a "last call".). It's a good time to bring out a nice dessert and coffee. You should be aware that coffee doesn't sober anyone up, but it signals a change of scene and also buys time - which does sober people up.

It's emotionally intelligent to take precautions to make your holiday party not only successful, but safe.
About the Author
Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc ,sdunn@susandunn.cc. Coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional success. Anger management, relationships, leadership, career, resilience, stress management. Coach Certification program.
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