Party pictures — the good, the bad, and the mortifying — have a way of becoming legendary among friends. Factor in social media, and those photos can take on a life of their own. Now, add up the disastrous potential of antics at your office holiday party — the kind of inappropriate behavior all employers dread — and the possibility of those moments going viral on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Forget the Monday-morning-water-cooler-fodder of yore. Now, unfortunate hijinks at a company party can wind up “living in perpetuity in cyberspace,” says Akerman Senterfitt partner Jennifer Williams, a labor and employment law attorney who blogged recently about this very issue. “We see the same types of concerns from employers and our clients as the holidays approach, but in the last year to three years, it’s sort of taken a different turn,” says Williams. “As with all things recently, social media has become a very effective and normalized form of communication.” So given the prevalence of smartphones enabled with cameras and always-on web connections, what’s an employer to do? Head off trouble at the pass, says Williams: “Proactive steps before the party occurs can do a lot of good.” Here, Williams relays her top tips for CorpCounsel.com readers:
1. Remind employees that existing company policies are in effect at the party. At the heart of the issue, employers don’t want their employees to feel uncomfortable or harassed in the workplace. So reiterate to the workforce expectations on professional conduct and decorum. “Just as those policies apply in your office, they also apply at workplace events, such as the holiday party,” Williams says.