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Aggression and sexual behaviour are big no-nos at the Christmas work function, and doing wheelies around the carpark, pushing someone into a swimming pool or passing out in the bathroom can lead to misconduct proceedings.
In a study of 1000 people last year, a University of Otago survey showed that although most people experienced no significant problems from alcohol availability at work events, and employees generally enjoyed alcohol responsibly around managers and workmates, there were some common pitfalls.
Twenty percent of employee respondents had seen festivities fall foul when staff over-indulged and 25% of employer respondents reported dealing with inappropriate behaviour at work functions.
Professor Ian McAndrew from the Department of Management at the University of Otago Business School, said aggression and sexual behaviour or harassment were the most damaging kinds of behaviour at work functions.
"We have recorded instances where there has been damage to property at the workplace or at hospitality venues, physical or emotional injury through either aggressive or sexually oriented behaviours," he said.
People can lose their jobs, be forced into mediation because of a grievance or even end up in the Employment Court as a result.
"Alcohol at work functions has damaged careers and relationships," Prof McAndrew said.
Sometimes general drunken rowdiness degenerated into unacceptable language, breaking things, vomiting, or smoking in non- smoking facilities. It sometimes meant driving home drunk.
The key for employers, Prof McAndrew said, was to be responsible hosts, provide a safe environment and establish ground rules, and employees need to realise that a work function still means workplace practices are in place, such as misconduct rules.