Rather than an opportunity to relax and have fun with colleagues after a tough year, the office Christmas party too often degenerates into an excuse to have a go at your boss, snog, fight or be verbally abusive, according to a survey of HR managers.
The study by responsible drinking campaign group The Portman Group has found that 40 per cent of HR managers had witnessed drunken employees telling their bosses exactly what they thought of them at the office party.
A third had caught people snogging or having sex and 37 per cent had seen colleagues being sick as a result of drinking too much.
Some 88 per cent of HR managers also expected a rise in absenteeism over the festive period as people took time off to go shopping or recover from hangovers.
A total of 17 per cent said that they had seen people verbally abusing one another as a result of drinking too much, 23 per cent had witnessed alcohol-related fighting, while 13 per cent had been shocked to see colleagues groping each other.
One HR manager had even witnessed a colleague undressing another colleague and eight per cent of those polled had seen furniture being damaged.
Yet, despite concerns over excess drinking and the introduction of new 24-hour drinking laws in Britain, almost three-quarters said their organisation would be providing a free bar at the Christmas party.
And almost eight out of ten said their employees knew they could be disciplined if they behaved badly at the office party. The findings have come as The Portman Group has launched its Christmas campaign urging party-goers to have fun without drinking to excess and embarrassing themselves in front of their colleagues.
Jean Coussins, Portman group chief executive, said prospective partygoers and managers could get useful tips on how to have a good night out without suffering the consequences afterwards by visiting the group's awareness raising website, www.drinkaware.co.uk.
"If you don't want to end up with a red face after your office party it could be the most useful five minutes you spend!" she said. "There are lots of hints and tips on responsible drinking on the site and also a handy drinks diary so that you can keep count of how many drinks – and calories – you consume.
"If you're unsure about how many units your favourite tipple contains have a look at the unit calculator which will tell you in an instant," she added.