Once upon a time, in a land far far away (the 1980s), Christmas parties were an excuse for a good old knees-up, staggering amounts of inebriation, wildly inappropriate conversations, and for drunken staff to get anything off their chest to the MD safe in the knowledge that he (and in those days it almost always was a ‘he’) was too pie-eyed either to recognise them at all or as a minimum, to remember the incident the following day. If anyone even made it into work the next day, that is.
Of course, some things cannot (and, perhaps, should not) last and, like an outrider for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse spotting a town ripe for plunder, a keen employment lawyer one day identified Christmas parties as a ‘marketing opportunity’. Nowadays, if you want to know when Christmas is approaching, rather than simply waiting until your city looks as if it has been invaded by an army of incoherent yet smartly dressed zombies, you just have to wait for the first ‘Christmas party’ blog, article or newsletter warning you of the obvious pitfalls of allowing your staff a moment’s respite from a year of trying to do more with less, good economic news which has somehow not reached their employer and the nagging fear that their teenage children will now never, under any circumstances, leave home.
However, what was once original is now tired – indeed crowds of lurching suited zombies thronging the streets trying to find a nightclub that will let them in have instead been replaced by their equivalent in prose, with lawyers and HR consultants simply re-writing and re-working the same undead warnings. These may have been ‘original’ and ‘new’ and possibly even “trendy” during the 80’s and early 90’s but now they simply remind those in HR of what they already know – that no matter how you ‘set the tone’ or remind people of their responsibilities, if someone is going to be an idiot at a Christmas party, you can’t stop them. Now, as then, combining someone else’s alcohol, institutional cooking, and the eternal but nonetheless baseless belief that you will become more attractive as the evening goes on, is a recipe for trouble. But you knew that, right?
Courtesy of website Hereisthecitynews.com we can however add some new blood to the usual pre-party cautions: don’t talk about work, it advises, ask for a raise or steal the cutlery. No twerking, adultery or drunken use of the photocopier either. No wonder, perhaps, that a recent survey by life-and-pensions group Metlife reports that over 70% of UK workers would sooner have the money their employer spends per head on the Christmas bash than the party itself. And that is not just the old and jaded among us – the party spirit has also left some 65% of 18-24s preferring the cash, though that may be more a comment on their recent pay progression than a general cooling on the festive frolic front. After all, how could a little post-tax cash really compare with the boost to the spirits occasioned by watching your senior management forfeit their dignity on the dancefloor, a spectacle which discretion and good timing can now ensure is preserved forever on Youtube? What pleasure can mere money give you relative to the knowledge that at the end of the evening you will not have to wear black tie again for another year? You might discover that some of your management/employees are quite decent people, even if they have done their best to hide it over the preceding year. And in the end, do remember the wise words of US writer PJ O’Rourke: “After all, what is your hosts’ purpose in having a party? Surely not for you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose, they’d have simply sent champagne over to your place by taxi”.
So no holier-than-thou fliers from us this year. HR has a right to enjoy the Christmas party too, and if you do see the first stirrings of trouble in a dark corner of your chosen venue, you will know immediately the sensible and professional thing to do – run.