'Tis the season to be jolly, but at company holiday parties there always seems to be an overachiever or two. And while the sheer size of large corporate shindigs provides some anonymity for embarrassing faux pas, at smaller companies the antics are apt to make a bigger impact. For instance, at a small truck-leasing firm in Florida a few years ago, the husband of an employee spent most of the night near the open bar. Fueled with free rum and Cokes, he took to the dance floor, slamming into people and doing "the worm" on the ground. His wife tried to usher him out, but he insisted on saying goodbye to the company owner and his wife. Our hero tripped, stepped on the owner's wife's toe hard enough to break it, and then grabbed the poor woman's breast to break his fall. The toe healed but emotional scars remained, and all-night open bars at firm events were summarily done away with.
"At small companies, parties take on a life of their own," says Rod Hanna, of Merit Resource Group, an HR consulting firm in Dublin, Calif., that specializes in small to midsize businesses. "People often don't take precautions until something goes awry." For the owner who doesn't wish to come off looking like a Scrooge, he suggests sending a friendly memo or just walking around the office saying, "Let's have fun at the party but not go too crazy."