Bah humbug! Australian bosses water down Christmas cheer

  1. Wed Dec 19, 4:36 PM

    SYDNEY (AFP) - The Christmas Grinch has arrived. Or at least that's the feeling in some Australian workplaces where bosses have warned staff against excessive boozing and even exchanging presents, reports say.

    As the festive season ramps up, employers have issued staff with written directives on how to behave at end-of-year functions, including what to do if they, or colleagues, drink too much Christmas cheer, the news website said.

    Although better known for its political reporting, the website has been publishing letters sent in by readers annoyed at notices from human resources departments and executives on how to celebrate Christmas.

    According to one letter published in part on the site, one company has even tried to ban gift-giving.

    "After discussions between the three presidents, it has been agreed that there will be no expectation of the exchange of presents within the ... Street office this year," it said.

    Another reportedly warned staff against drinking any alcohol, or taking any drugs, before the lunch time work event.

    "Please also note that it is not acceptable to begin drinking before we are seated at the cafi on Friday," it said, adding that the company would supply "an adequate amount of alcohol for everyone to have a sensible and fun time."

    "If anyone is suspected of having consumed alcohol before the function, they will be told to leave the function and take unpaid leave for the remainder of the day and will be given a formal warning upon their return to work on Monday."

    The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia has also weighed in, warning that Christmas and New Year "celebrations can sometimes result in unfortunate situations for those who drink excessively".

    Paul Atkins, of the Australian National University's School of Management, Marketing and International Business, said work Christmas parties provided a potential clash between personal habits and professional practice.

    While it was reasonable to expect people to be sober at work, treating them like children by issuing notices about behaviour could lead to cynicism and resentment, he said.

    Companies' human resources departments should be wary of treating staff like "cogs in a machine", he said.

    "They are probably afraid of someone vomiting on the photocopier or somebody getting hurt," he said.

    Matthew Bambling, a lecturer in psychology at the Queensland University of Technology, said these types of instructions didn't sit well with the idea of a relaxed Australian Christmas which coincides with the start of summer.

    "It's a time for relaxing and having a bit of fun at the symbolic end of the year," he said.

    Bambling said the notices had been issued at a time when the traditional Christmas slow down had been contracted to just a few days.