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Setting boundaries for holiday office parties

December 7, 2017

Image of William Becker
William Becker, Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Tech

In this season of workplace holiday gatherings, many organizations are laying out rules for acceptable behavior, in light of heightened awareness of sexual harassment, says Virginia Tech’s William Becker, an expert in organizational behavior and human resource management. 

Becker, an associate professor in Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business, encourages managers to “emphasize that the purpose of the parties is to come together and celebrate their shared membership in the organization and remind them that it is a work function.”

As some offices even consider canceling their traditional holiday gatherings, Becker calls that unnecessary. “I think it is extreme and short-sighted to cancel parties in order to avoid instances of poor behavior. Perhaps these organizations need to step back and look closely at their culture.” 

Becker offers these tips to companies:

1.      Remind employees in advance of social gatherings that the organization has no tolerance for any inappropriate conduct. 

2.      Be extremely proactive when setting guidelines and limiting or monitoring alcohol consumption.

3.      Make certain employees understand attendance is optional. It should not in any way be considered a condition of their employment.

4.      Encourage spouses or significant others to attend.

5.       Hold events in a family friendly setting.

Background

Becker, whose research interests include work emotion, turnover, organizational neuroscience, and leadership, is based at Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region campus in metro Washington, D.C.

His latest study, regarding employer expectations about after-hours emails, has been widely reported in the media.

Read William Becker’s bio

To secure a print or broadcast interview with Dr. Becker, contact Bill Foy by email at fwill55@vt.edu; or by phone at 540-998-0288 or 540-231-8719.

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