Sorry I’m Late … I Didn’t Want to Come

December 7, 2018|Posted in: Uncategorized

OK, so it’s that time of year again: time for eggnog, fruitcakes, and the dreaded (at least by me) “Not-Officially-Required-to-Attend-but …” office party.

Let’s just call it NORTAB for short, shall we?

I’m a bit of a curmudgeon (you’re shocked to discover this, I know) so I probably dread these things even more than the next guy, but research shows that the vast majority of workers would rather have their stockings filled with a lump of cold hard cash … as opposed to traveling across town to eat and drink stuff I would normally never eat or drink with a bunch of people who are about as much like me as Dracula is like Captain Kangaroo.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a scrooge, and I don’t suffer from unbearable amounts of social anxiety. It’s just that I never understood why the people up in the C-Suite felt it was occasionally necessary for me to act like I’m friends with people I know just well enough to work alongside. This is not a party, folks: this is work, with cocktails.

It makes a certain amount of sense, in some ways: on the outside, the NORTAB seems like a good way for companies to build morale and forge a closer-knit workplace. But other studies have shown these parties can actually be counterproductive. Face it: forced-non-forced attendance requirements are never going to be the best trick for getting dissimilar people to form close bonds. Seriously? I haven’t made close friends by spending 40-50 hours a week with the same people over the course of four years; I am highly skeptical that my coerced attendance at your holiday party is going to bring about any kind of breakthrough here.

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if it was a good party, but historically, these things feel more like a tax write-off than a celebration. From my perspective, a good holiday party–or any NORTAB-type event–only has to do one thing: it has to make me feel appreciated. But feeling appreciated involves actually knowing who I am, and what is important to me. Hell, I’d be happy if you even knew my name. But instead, I’ll get a perfunctory nod from the higher-ups and spend the rest of the night saying things like, “No I work on the second floor” and “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you around the office.” Sign me up.

Of course, my mama is fond of saying, if you ain’t got the solution, you might be the problem. So instead of just bitching, I thought I’d expound on some of the ways this could work better.

Even among NORTABs, the holiday party is probably going to get the best attendance. Even those employees who find ways to skip out on other social events tend to make the holiday party, so it’s management’s best opportunity (outside of the workspace) to spotlight company priorities. I don’t mean just pontificate: this is the place where you want to demonstrate some of that “culture” you’re always talking about.

Show your team you recognize them beyond their jobs. Do something outside your comfort zone: if your dress code is normally casual, give people a chance to dress up. If you live in a suit, throw a party where people can wear Levis and sweaters.

And if you don’t want to spend the money, try something that’s cheaper: I’d rather attend a well-planned brunch than wander around in a tux trying to stretch my allotted two drinks out over three hours. If you don’t want to go big, try going all-out on a smaller event.

You love to talk about how the customer is always right; well, research says that ain’t necessarily so, but even if it is, in this case WE are the customers. So if you’re going to make us attend a party, try planning the party from our point of view.

Better yet, I’m still open  to cash …