Jewish World Review Dec. 12, 2002 / 7 Teves, 5763

Jerry Nachman

Jerry Nachman
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Consumer Reports


Office Holiday Parties: Can bad behavior really end careers?


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Frank Goldstin has seen it all. He's CEO of G/M! Productions, a Chicago company that specializes in throwing corporate affairs and parties. Can careers really end at the company Christmas party?

"People have definitely stepped on some land mindes," says Goldstin.

The most obvious one? Alcohol. "Booze can totally be the one that sends things over the edge. Listen, this is corporate America. It's a party - you're going to have a great time. But still, at the same time, you want to make sure that you know that there's a big picture at hand, that all eyes are going to be all eyes are going to be upon you. You have to handle yourself in a certain way. And especially with liquor flowing for the duration of a party, you don't want to let your hair down too much."

Indeed, there have been horror stories of people who got drunk and said something about the boss, did something to the boss' wife, or the boss' girlfriend.

"People don't realize what's going to happen until they're in that worst case scenario," Goldstin says.

SOME HORROR STORIES

"There was a very, very fancy black tie party, and a very young lady was walking around and she really was having trouble. She was kind of drunk. The boss' wife actually helped escort her out of the ballroom. And as they were walking through the pre-function area towards the washrooms, she literally vomited all over the boss' wife's back."

Obviously, not a good career move.

Also, with tension in the workplace, alcohol has a way of liberating people's tongues.

"It's the perfect place that it would happen," says Goldstin. "Another horror story: There was a table of 10 people, and at that table were two women. One woman was the boss, one woman was her subordinate. And basically, the woman had some words and it got heated. And as the president is speaking, the two husbands that are with the women get into a huge fistfight. So, it's the time where things like that happen. I've seen just about a lot of crazy things happen, especially when liquor is in the scenario."

NEW LANDMINES

Some new minefields have come up in the last 10 or 20 years as well. There are issues of race and sexual harrasment to deal with as well. That pinch or that smooch that used to be standard 1950's stuff is a no-no these days.

"I mean, it's hands to yourselves," says Goldstin. "It's a different environment. It's a totally different climate if every which way, culturally and in business."

So what does Goldstin advise his clients, since a lot of them want the eggnog to flow and the champagne to flow? What do you tell them about staying on the safe side of neutral?

SETTING THE TONE

"The trend is, is that companies that are doing these kinds of parties are very fortunate to be entertaining, especially in the economic climate that we're in. So what we're doing is we're kind of setting the tone so the guests don't end up falling apart drunk on the dance floor and vomiting, during the duration of the party."

Companies like Goldsin put a few thresholds in place that they're sure guests can't cross. One of them is to put a limit on open bars. "Maybe we'll have the bar open for an hour during the cocktail reception, and then we'll close it for a couple of hours when dinner is served, and then we'll open it up after."

"Also, event security today is at its absolute highest. And it's to be expected. But I think that we are far from the point where we're going to have security personnel frisking people and going through detectors as they enter the party."

DOS AND DON'TS

  • In dressing, Goldstin says to "know the big picture. "Know the fact that it's still company-represented, so it's a place to have a good time. You can let your hair down a little bit. At the same time, be aware of your environment."

  • Always say hello to the boss.

  • Carry your drink in your left hand so your right hand isn't cold and wet. "No one likes a clammy handshake," says Goldstin.

  • And say "thank you." "Even a CEO of a company or major executive who's gone to the trouble of putting together an event such as this, wants to hear a thank you. And I think that's something to think about as well."



    JWR contributor Jerry Nachman is vice president and editor-in-chief of MSNBC, and the host of “Nachman,” which airs at 5 p.m. ET, weekdays on MSNBC. A former radio reporter, newspaper Editor-in-Chief, and even Hollywood screenwriter, he is the recipient of the prestigious Peabody Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association and an Emmy Award, plus numerous others. He has served twice as a Pulitzer Prize Juror in the Journalism competition. Comment by clicking here.

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