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A Tale of Two Parties

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Christmas 2021 Chief exec: “The Team haven’t seen much of each other this year, let’s give them a good time and have some fun, they deserve it”.

This was a sentiment echoed up and down the country after months of lockdown and the associated challenges of remote working.
So the Christmas party for this particular company went ahead with no guidelines issued, a free bar all night and encouragement from the top to “let their hair down”.

Unfortunately, one person took it too far, getting so drunk he couldn’t remember what he had said or done. His behaviour led to two team members bringing complaints of harassment. In addition, the female bar manager in the hotel where the company was staying, swapped roles with a colleague to avoid persistent requests to share their phone number with the drunken team member.

The fall out affected so many people. The grievances were addressed which was difficult for the female team members who had been on the receiving end of the unwanted behaviour. The drunk team member had to face up to his actions and received our risk to reward coaching to help him understand the impact of his behaviour and to put measures in place to ensure it never happened again.

And while the rest of the team should have had a good time, the atmosphere back in the office wasn’t the buoyant one the directors had hoped for. So along with the one to one coaching, the company invested in a management development programme for all those with line management responsibility – including the senior team – to develop more inclusive leadership skills.

Fast forward two years…

Summer 2023 Chief exec: “Its been such a successful year, we need to reward everyone and make sure they have some fun!”

It could have been complete déjà vu but this time one of the directors – the head of the marketing team – challenged this thinking. The chief exec argued that “rules” would spoil the summer party, but the Marketing director drew on all he had learned in the last two years about creating an environment which was safe and respectful for all and stood firm.

This time the top team were clear on their expectations around behaviour, talking to their teams about “having fun within boundaries” and not just issuing a written document. And they didn’t just base the event around drinking. They hired bikes and explored the countryside during the day and while there were drinks in the evening, no one abused that. The senior team were careful to set an example in a way they hadn’t back in 2021.

The directors have said it was the best event they have had – with the biggest surprise being how it has impacted the teams back in the office. People have been uplifted by the time they have spent together – partly because they can all remember it! – but also because it has strengthened relationships and paved the way for more discussion about how to work more effectively together.
It is a heartening example of how changing a leadership style and leading from the front can have a far reaching positive impact.

If you would like to find out more about how to create a respectful inclusive workplace for all – both on and off site – please call us on 01903 732 782, email us at, contact us.
You may also be interested in our recent blog looking at why we need to rethink the summer party