In April 2023, a poll from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) showed that a third of managers had seen inappropriate behaviour at work parties, and that women were more likely than men to witness this behaviour. People aged between 16 and 34 were also more likely to say that work social events should not be centred around alcohol.
In response to this, CMI chief executive Ann Francke suggested that safeguards should be put in place to help reduce inappropriate behaviour. This could include putting a limit on the number of drinks available or having other group activities alongside drinking, such as bowling or mini golf.
There is no doubt that alcohol can affect a person’s behaviour, and too much of it can result in embarrassment and regretful behaviour. In more serious cases, it can lead to sexual harassment and rape.
In 2022, Drinkaware found that 86% of people working in the private sector were more likely to say that there is an expectation to drink at work social events than those who work in the public sector. Employees in the private sector also experienced pressure from managers to consume alcohol.
Common scenarios of peer pressure can include being ridiculed for not drinking or being handed a drink without being asked first. Nobody should be forced to drink or made to feel uncomfortable or excluded because they don’t want to drink.
Jordan Schwarzenberger, co-founder of Arcade Media, said that there is never an expectation to drink at social events they host. They want to make an inclusive culture that doesn’t tell people that they “need to drink in order to be a part of something.” For example, when they have company away-days they also provide coffees, teas and soft drinks alongside alcohol.
When organising work social events involving alcohol, there are plenty of measures that can be put in place, such as:
- Serving food. Drinking large amounts on an empty stomach can be dangerous, as it directly enters the bloodstream.
- Voluntary attendance. It’s up to the individual if they want to join and they should never be pressured into attending.
- Finishing the party at a reasonable hour. This will give people time to calm down and sober up.
- Taking action when witnessing inappropriate behaviour. Step in before the situation escalates.
This is not to say that alcohol should no longer be a part of work parties or that no one should have fun; just be mindful that not everyone will want to drink for their own reasons. Like everything else, it should be done in moderation.