As Christmas party season get underway, it’s a time for decompressing and celebrating progress. But a study published by the Institute of Leadership and Management reveals team leaders and managers are under great pressure to make the festive party a workplace team success.

82% of managers see team bonding as the biggest benefit to having a Christmas party, and 57% stated personal wellbeing as another huge benefit. However, 19% of managers don’t feel relaxed themselves.

One in 10 managers gave details of challenges they had had to face, three-quarters of them involving too much alcohol, with many respondents (7%) saying there is too much pressure to get drunk. Other difficulties included fighting (sometimes between senior people), other forms of inappropriate behaviour, including illegal drugs being consumed, and sexual misconduct (both consensual and harassment).

As one anonymous manager reported: “A team member was out of control and rude and aggressive to others in the company as well as different company’s due to not being able to manage their alcohol intake. Very unprofessional hence why I am uncomfortable attending these events.”

However, the main downside for a third (33%) of our respondents was that office Christmas parties kept them from other ‘personal social events’ and one in five (19%) said they can’t relax at them, reflecting the fact that many managers are reluctant to let their hair down because of the responsibility they carry in their role.

Phil James, Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership and Management, says: “The office Christmas party remains a huge part of the workplace culture but needs to be managed correctly. Christmas parties are a great way to build teams and improve internal communications and the money firms spend on Christmas parties are a worthwhile investment in employee engagement, but we must be mindful of what kind of environment we create and of how different individuals can experience the party.”

Over half (54%) of parents in the study described it as ‘easy to take annual leave once the schools have broken up’ though, and a further 32% said that ‘sometimes it was easy’; only 14% found it ‘hard’. These results were almost identical for men and for women, suggesting that the greater flexibility that parents are seeking is equally available.