HR Strange But True!
December 07, 2006

If you have friends or colleagues who embarrass themselves at this year's holiday party, be sure to pass along the advice of Liz Ryan, chief executive officer of WorldWIT and a workplace expert.

Your friend should know that he or she won't be alone in his or her embarrassment. Six percent of workers admit they have embarrassed themselves at an employer's holiday party, according to a survey by Spherion Corporation.

Ryan offers the following 5 tips for managing holiday party missteps.

  1. The first, and hardest, part of bouncing back from a workplace misstep is to apologize to the affected parties. That might be the boss you insulted, the workmate you flirted with, or the hapless guest whose coat you spilled your drink on. Contact this person and say, "I want to apologize deeply for the incident the other night at the holiday party. I feel very bad about what happened." That's all. You don't need to gush or try to make amends, unless you damaged or destroyed personal property. "Tincture of time" will be the best remedy for your misstep--that and following Step Number Two.
  2. Watch your step for the next long while, and depending on the heinousness of your crime, that "while" could range from 2 weeks to 6 months or more. If you got drunk and kissed your boss, it could be longer. Be cool, do your work, and be overly respectful and careful until you're back in good standing.  
  3. Keep yourself out of situations that might make a relapse likely. If you have to avoid workplace social events for awhile, do it. If people are going to start in again on "Remember when Charlie fell down on the dance floor at the Christmas party?" then it might be better if you're not there. 
  4. If your boss saw or likely heard about your gaffe, talk privately with him or her about it. If you really goofed up in public, you brought disfavor on your whole department and, to some degree, made your boss look bad. On top of that, you made it harder for him or her to champion you to higher-ups who are aware of the bad thing that took place. So apologize to your boss as well, letting him or her know what you're going to do by way of damage control, and reassure him or her that you are a professional who takes responsibility for your mistakes.
  5. Don't dwell on the incident. Life goes on. You don't have to keep apologizing to everyone you see or reenacting the situation for the amusement of your colleagues. It's over, and tomorrow is a new day.
Ryan's firm conducted a survey that found drinking too much alcohol was one of the top holiday party regrets.

Eighty-six percent of companies are planning to serve alcohol at their holiday party this year, up from 75 percent last year, according to a survey by Battalia Winston International.

Sources: WorldWIT, Spherion Corporation, and Battalia Winston International

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