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26 May 2022

Party Gate – Lessons leaders and businesses can learn

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Posted by: Mary Asante

The long-awaited report into The Party Gate’s parties arrived on Wednesday 25th May. Sue Gray’s investigation offers striking details of the culture of work and play during the lockdown period.  There are also some key lessons for leaders and businesses can across the UK.



Organisational practices where leaders fail to lead by example or demonstrate good judgement often lead to distrust.  Leadership in organisations set the tone and direction for the organisation.  The report highlights that workplace gatherings or parties were held on several occasions during lockdown. A period during which everyone else was expected to social distance and not allowed to party. These gatherings were authorised by leaders, who also attended most of them.

In organisations where leaders have no regard for rules and policies, employees are unlikely to follow them. They simply ‘follow the leader’.

The report references complex leadership structures.


Company Culture

There appear to be no clear boundaries between work and social gatherings. Both involve heavy drinking and partying. Over the past few decades, most organisations have moved towards having fewer company social gatherings and away from drinking alcohol during working meetings. Alcohol may be served at company social events but not at company meetings. Many organisations serve teas and coffees at meetings.

The drinking culture led to a toxic working environment, where employees demonstrated unacceptable behaviours.

Employees who felt less comfortable with what was going on felt unable to raise issues. How do you complain when your bosses are part of the problem? Who do you complain to? In most organisations, that’s where HR can make a real difference.

Businesses have long been aware that social gatherings create liability. Workplace drinking is seen by many as behaviour from yesteryear.  There was a recent case about an employee being excluded from an informal social gathering who went on to win at a tribunal.

Leaders should be held to account for sure but in a business that is by key stakeholders. Likewise, look what happened to the ex-CEO of McDonalds. They had a clear boundary of what was and wasn’t acceptable and acted swiftly.



In organisations where leaders are not held accountable, more junior members of staff often bear the blame. Blame is apportioned to people who do not deserve to be blamed. Leadership should be accountable for the decisions they make. Leaders must therefore be able to admit when they have failed to exercise judgment. They must accept their mistakes.


Brand Image

The failure of leaders to lead by example can cause some serious damage to the organisation’s brand. Such as bad publicity, resulting from such failures can cause long term damage to the brand and reputation of the business.

Leaders are brand ambassadors. They have a social and moral responsibility to keep their brand images positive.


Health and Safety at Work

Health and Safety regulations are there to protect all employees. When employees feel unsafe, they can refuse to work. But, where an organisation or leader have little regard for Health and Safety, those who do, are unlikely to raise their concerns knowing it to be frowned on. The Covid-19 pandemic caused a lot of anxiety for most people. Staff who were worried about it may have been put in situations where they had to socialise without social distancing, masks and the necessary safeguards.

The consequences of workers disregarding Health and Safety can be severe for a company.  Not least that it may result in injury or death of an employee, but there will also be an investigation by the HSE.

There are also some key lessons for businesses across the UK.

  • Leaders must respect the policies and procedures they put in place in their organisations.
  • Leaders must be accountable for their decisions and actions.
  • They must ensure that employees can raise issues when they have concerns.
  • Organisations must endeavour to create nontoxic and inclusive cultures.

External HR Consultants can work with organisations to help them create a great working environment, where leaders lead by example and all employees feel empowered to speak up.


Read the full report.


Author: Mary Asante, Director | HRi