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Why we need to rethink the work summer party

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A new survey from the CMI suggests organisations should cut down on alcohol at summer parties. We look at why the parties are just the tip of the iceberg…

Many organisations are reinstating summer events for their staff and while there are some real benefits to bringing people together – especially in light of so much hybrid working – it is also vital employers guard against the pitfalls and think seriously about the culture they are creating through them.

A new poll by the CMI says a third of managers have seen harassment or inappropriate behaviour at parties. The stats, while high, are no surprise to us. In the work we do we often deal with situations where alcohol is responsible for inappropriate behaviour (link to our inappropriate behaviour website page) leading to a complaint.

The CMI are suggesting organisations curb the amount of alcohol provided and some people are asking if it should be taken out of the work party equation altogether.

These questions are important to consider. It is an outdated view that everyone wants the open bar and cocktail soaked corporate hospitality – and the CMI survey bears this out with younger people (age 16-34) most likely to say work parties should not be organised around activities that involve alcohol.

And there is a wider issue to consider here too. Back in 2019, there were articles about employees feeling pressurised to drink at Pernod Ricard And yet here we are 4 years on, still debating the merits of alcohol at work events. No one should ever feel pressured to drink at work parties or client corporate events.

Where this happens, it is often symptomatic of wider cultural issues around pressure to “fit in” and to be accepted as part of a clique that “plays hard.” You don’t need to look much further than the sort of behaviour rooted out at Lloyds of London to see that drinking is often associated with old boys’ networks and behaviour that should have been left behind in the 80’s.

No organisation can claim to be inclusive in any sense, if there are these cliques being formed, excluding anyone who doesn’t fit the mould.

As well as research supporting the fact that the new generation coming into the workplace are far less likely to drink, there is evidence that they are much more concerned with the values of the organisation and how these are demonstrated.

Organisations need to work harder to join the dots…. You simply can’t have a set of values that proclaim “respect” and “team work” if you are putting pressure on people to fit in in a certain way. People should be valued for who they are and the work they do – not made to feel excluded because their choice of drink is an orange juice rather than pint.

What are your managers doing to set the right expectations and tone for their teams this summer and beyond?

If you would like help with creating a more respectful and inclusive culture please call us on 01903 732 782, email us at , contact us, or take a look at how we have helped other organisations tackle inappropriate behaviour at work

If you do end up with a complaint against an employee our risk to reward coaching may be particularly helpful.