Why It’s Smart to Ban Alcohol From Company Events

Putting all your employees in one room, reducing their inhibitions and encouraging them to “enjoy themselves in the holiday spirit” is rarely a good idea.

Celebrating the holidays with workplace company parties holds a host of risks. And yet for many employers, it is a time-honored tradition. Ensure your parties limit those risks by declining to serve alcohol. This is about far more than getting your employees home safely and avoiding a corporate-fueled DUI. Here’s why.

Alcohol reduces inhibitions. Inhibitions are what keep most of us on the straight-and-narrow path of good behavior. Putting your entire workforce in one room, taking away their filters and “encouraging celebration” is fraught with potential problems. People will use language (perhaps foul language) they would not normally use, and say things to and about others that they would not normally say. Power differentials between managers and those managed may become exaggerated. Instead of good cheer, employees may share gripes and grudges. Suddenly, your hope to inspire good will has stoked simmering ill will.

Additionally, they may act on feelings they have otherwise kept in check. Employees who would have not consciously considered each other sexual partners end up sleeping together on a sales trip, or at the hotel where the party has been hosted. Even if the sexual activity is consensual (and with alcohol there is always the risk consent has not been fully or consciously given), you have created an uncomfortable situation for Monday morning that may linger far longer than any hangover.

Yes, I am a big opponent of alcohol in the workplace. Give your employees more precious gifts: time and money. Give them the afternoon off to spend as they please, or individual cash cards equal to the amount the company would have spent on a party. Let them go to dinner with their family, or pay off a credit card. They will be happier and will remember the gesture far longer than an alcohol-fueled party, which brings a host of holiday risk that could taint the entire coming year.