Let your hair down, but not your reputation down at this year’s office party by Marius Meyer

Leveraging images and connectivity with Instagram by Marius Meyer
November 21, 2018
December 5, 2018

As we approach the last two weeks of work for most employees, companies are taking their staff out for the end-of-the year office party.   This is a great opportunity for companies to celebrate successes and to thank their teams for all the hard work during the year. Moreover, it is the last chance for team-building this year.

Most organisations experienced 2018 as a tough year, given the current business environment, ongoing social challenges, political uncertainty and slow economic growth.  We started the year with a new president, and so many hopes of a better year. Yet, as the state capture commission continued its work, in addition to rising unemployment and retrenchments, several petrol price increases and other negative events, business confidence is going down yet again.  Even more reason for the survivors to celebrate achievements, despite the turmoil and depressed business environment.  Notwithstanding these challenges, the reality is that top talent in most organisations ensured another year of survival and sustainability of business operations.

Office parties represent a positive end to the year, but it is also the last opportunity this year to destroy your reputation and career.  The old saying “It takes years to build a reputation and only an hour to destroy it” is even more true for office parties. As one of the highest alcohol consuming nations in the world, South Africans are at high risk to fall victim to alcohol abuse and the inappropriate behaviour that goes with it.

As published in Sunday Times, Auguste Coetzer from executive search firm Talent Africa provides the following tips to ensure that office parties do not create end of the year headaches for organisations:

  • Choose your venue wisely. If you have strong corporate values, an inappropriate venue or location will send the wrong message to staff.
  • Take pride in the organisation of the event, even if it is a braai or other more informal function.
  • While staff work can be recognised, refrain from acknowledging only certain individuals while all staff contributed to the success of the organisation.
  • If you know people will be drinking, act responsibly and arrange transport.
  • Remind all staff about the company policy on posting inappropriate images or messages on social media.

While most office parties are an ideal opportunity to ‘let your hair down,” employees should be careful not to damage their reputation in the process. You can let your hair down without letting your team or career down.  Talented employees have achieved so many successes in building their personal brand, that it is not worth it to destroy your reputation in a few hours. Also, professionals such as accountants, engineers, psychologists and HR professionals have to conform to the code of conduct as prescribed by their professional bodies.  The SABPP Code of Conduct with its four values – responsibility, integrity, competence and respect provide clear guidelines of appropriate conduct, even during office parties.

Thus, as professionals, end-of the year functions can be an appropriate way to reflect on the year, to celebrate successes, to recognise achievements and to inspire teams to greater heights and even raising the bar during the next year. And of course, to have some great fun after another hard year. As some commentators would say:  This is a year we rather want to forget.

Be yourself, but leave the office politics at the office. Connect with individuals you don’t always have the opportunity to interact with. Build your relationships and celebrate all the successes of the year; this will put you in a positive frame of mind as you close-off your work activities for the year and get yourself ready for some rest and the new year.  End the year on a high note, and be careful not to engage in career limiting behaviour. Go into 2019 with your reputation intact.  Yes, let your hair down, but not your reputation. Professional behaviour is the hallmark of talented employees and all opportunities to engage with others should be utilised to keep on building your brand and reputation.  Enjoy this year’s office party!


Marius Meyer is Chairperson of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) and lectures in HR Management at Stellenbosch University. An earlier version of this article appeared in Talent Talks