Is anything worse than the office Christmas party? It is almost always a horror show. Colleagues who are cheerful all year round turn into angry drunks. Usually benign bosses become second-rate pimps. The interesting become boring and the boring become interminable.
The average office Christmas do tends to leave you wishing you didn’t have to come back to the grind next year. Why should it be so? Most of us like the people we work with— give or take — so a few hours of celebration should be fun. The problem, I think, is that office party organisers, who tend to be drawn from the management caste, can’t get themselves out of work mode. As a result they don’t think enough about what really makes a party. Instead of trying to ensure the food is good, the drinks are right, and that people can enjoy themselves, they adopt the safest possible course. The result is that originality is bludgeoned to death on the corporate altar.
My first rule for HR heads and MDs trying to give their staff a good Christmas send-off is to avoid the internet. Websites dedicated to workplace festive fun are about as depressing as the words workplace festive fun. Take Office Christmas, a ‘bespoke’ service dedicated to helping you ‘build’ your perfect celebration, and ensuring that your office party is as monstrous as possible. Avoid at all costs. The next rule is to keep things simple. Make sure the Christmas element is as invisible as possible. I say this not to avoid offending non-Christians — God no! — but because Christmas and work should be kept at a distance. Forcing them together overcomplicates matters and makes people uneasy. The meal should not be a pale imitation of a family Christmas lunch — steer well clear of turkey and Brussels sprouts. I would also ban party hats. But you can grant small concessions: crackers can be allowed and even Scrooges are partial to a good mince pie. Just don’t go overboard with the food. Small amounts of smoked salmon or lamb always go down well — and stick to wine. Spirits send people loopy and make more sober colleagues uncomfortable. Don’t be stingy with alcohol, but make the party short: send everyone off after two or three hours. Binge drinkers can carry on elsewhere. Above all, think of it as a party, not an ‘office Christmas party’, and you can’t go wrong.