1. Don’t Drink So Much
In his experience, Rossein says there’s an overwhelming amount of harassment cases that start with alcohol. “We lose our inhibitions and we say things or do things that are inappropriate.” Rossein recalls one specific case in which someone “who is the nicest man in the world” was unfortunately terrible at holding their alcohol. The person’s reputation didn’t stop them from the repercussions that followed.
Rossein also warns against too much alcohol when socializing with that co-worker you have a crush on. “There’s nothing against the law in terms of being attracted. Many people have met their spouses in the workplace. We spend more time there than any place. But it’s important to remember this is a business setting and you must be respectful and appropriate.”
In the wake of so many sexual harassment survivors coming forward this year, many companies are limiting alcohol at the annual soirees, one study found.
2. Know Who You’re Dealing With
Besides workplace roles which define social dynamics — toasting with the boss is very different from talking to the interns — it’s important to remember how comfortable you are with a person, and especially how comfortable they are with you. Rossein suggests really asking yourself: “Do you know them? Do you know what you can share appropriate? If not, it would not be advisable to talk about sex, politics, unless you’ve had that discussion before.”
When in doubt, “Just have appropriate discussions.” It’s the holidays, so ask about their plans for the season, or their favorite Christmas movie. (Do not say Die Hard.)
Says Rossein: “If people have a relationship, they know what the boundaries are. Where you can go and where you should not go.”
7. Just Use Common Sense
In theory, basic decency and plain common sense should dictate one’s behavior. But as Rossein’s continued employment proves, it’s not. “It is common sense. But when you mix common sense with informal setting, and alcohol, people lose their common sense.”
Really, the ultimate advice Rossein gives can be summed up in just five words: “Enjoy yourself, and be careful.”