One of the biggest goals of company team building activities is to get people to loosen up outside of work. And one of the easiest ways to loosen up is by serving alcohol to your employees at team events. But, is it worth the cost and the risk?
I can think of a couple of times in my professional life when I’ve seen alcohol and company team building go south. At one party, a male colleague wrestled a girl to the ground and started making, shall we say, implicit maneuvers against her mid-section. It was one of those moments where we were all thinking, “did that really just happen?” The man was fired shortly thereafter.
Many years later at a company Christmas party, I remember a gal who was inebriated falling backwards in the group photo booth and baring all to the onlookers. That one was kind of funny, but she definitely had to make the walk of shame into work the next day.
Despite the “lawsuit waiting to happen” moments, I can also recall some great experiences at corporate team building events that probably wouldn’t have happened if we were sober. Sunny afternoons enjoying beers on an outdoor patio. Awkward social hours that probably would have been a complete bust without some liquid courage. Hawaiian luau themed parties (the pupu party!) with umbrella drinks.
So, is there a right answer to the question of allowing alcohol at company events? Here are some tips we’ve come up with to help you take a responsible approach to serving drinks at your next team building activity.
Limit the Supply
By far, the fastest way to get into trouble is by providing an endless supply of booze to your employees at a team building event. The allure of unlimited free alcohol is just too much for many people to handle.
Consider handing out drink tickets as a way to limit the number of drinks that each person is allowed to drink.
Know Your Culture
If you are a company with a party atmosphere and an average employee age of 23 years old, you’ll want to make sure you set some clear boundaries on what is and is not appropriate at events.
For companies with a more mature workforce, it might be much easier to offer alcohol and trust everyone to moderate themselves. Mature does not mean “older”, by the way. Think in terms of company culture when evaluating your employees.
The key is to know what kind of values the majority of your employees will bring to the event and to set the stage accordingly.
Lead by Example
Is your CEO buying everyone rounds of shots and trying too hard to be the “cool boss” at events? Employees are going to mirror the behavior they see from their managers at team building events.
Make sure your company policies are crystal clear to the people who will be setting the example for your employees.
Provide a Safe Ending
It will be worth the extra expense to let your employees know that they can expense a ride home with Uber at the end of the evening if you want to let them get a little more raucous.
Some companies even arrange for a discounted block of rooms in nearby hotels as a way to keep inebriated employees off the roads.
The decision to serve alcohol comes to down to your company’s values and culture. If you are going to encourage employees to let their hair down a bit at the next team building event, make sure that your company knows what it is doing from a liability standpoint and that you give your employees every opportunity to get home safe that evening.