Okay, we have all heard the warnings about not being that person at the staff Christmas party. You know the one I mean, the person that takes celebration to a drunken, embarrassing level that gives them a reputation that sticks for the entire time they’re at the company.
But what happens if you are the person that is on the receiving end of the bad behaviour? Perhaps it was an aggressive tirade directed at you, or an unwelcome romantic advance? Even though you have done nothing to encourage or incite this behaviour, it leaves you with a massive burden. You need to take care of it all, and this is how.
1. Address the person as soon as possible
Try not to let it linger. You might be tempted to let them squirm on it for a little, but until it is dealt with and the air is clear you are actually prolonging the discomfort for yourself. It might be a text message, a phone call or speaking to them first time you see them again in the office.
2. Talk about how it made you feel
If someone has transgressed then they need to be made aware of how it made you feel. They may not even realise they were being inappropriate. Don’t start with a lecture or an aggressive position, instead try something along the lines of “I know you had a few drinks at the Christmas party, but what you did made me feel really bad, it was embarrassing for both of us.” Note that you’re not placing a judgement on the act at all, but you are highlighting the consequence of that act, which puts the onus on the other person to respond.
3. Reset the boundaries
There is a strangeness that occurs when boundaries are crossed. Most people respond in three ways:
- act like it never happened
- act very embarrassed for a period of time until it is forgotten
- passive anger emerges
That is a lot of discomfort that can be avoided! Hit it directly and remind the other person how you expect to be treated in the future.
4. What if the other person deflects?
It’s not uncommon for people to move into a defensive pose when confronted on issues such as this. They may deny that it happened, or tell you to just lighten up. This is a really undermining response and it might even make you regret raising the issue. It might make you doubt yourself a little, and question whether you really have a right to feel aggrieved. Again, shift the conversation to how it made you feel, remind the person how you expect to be treated, but in this instance it may be worth mentioning that a more formal course of action will be required if it ever happens again.
End of year parties are great fun, and most people have a great time. There are always a few funny stories that emerge and many sore heads in the morning. However, if there are people who become victims of the frivolity they need to address the situation quickly and clearly. The organisation also has the opportunity to really layout what the company culture is. We still see too many instances of frivolity turning into debauchery.
Have a safe and happy holiday season!