The office holiday party is a hallowed institution with a rich and storied history. The office holiday party of the 1950s and ’60s is today the stuff of legend. The business climate has changed quite a bit since then, of course, and it’s a good idea to reevaluate the office holiday party in the light of today’s institutions, corporate culture, and revised expectations. The “good old days,” when party planning consisted of raiding the boss’s martini cabinet, are gone, but there’s no reason you can’t have just as much fun at this year’s office holiday party as your fun-loving uncle Jim used to have at his.
The first thing to think about in an office holiday party is the venue. Will it be held in the office proper, or will everyone be meeting at an off-site location such as a restaurant or bar? The choice of location will tell you a lot about what sort of behavior the office culture will consider appropriate. While a party in the office can sometimes signal nothing more than a half-hour break from the daily routine, having everybody meet at a restaurant puts the whole affair on a far more social footing where the emphasis will be on friends and food. Some parties—arguably the best—involve skipping work for the day and meeting at a local club or bar. Here, you may take it as implied that normal office rules of decorum will be relaxed for the dress code, rules of conversation, and even sobriety.
Speaking of sobriety, bringing alcohol to an office holiday party is a fraught business. Here, you really can’t win for losing. Some of your coworkers would probably be surprised to find a “party” without alcohol—even beer or wine—and can come away disappointed. Others, from natural teetotalers to recovering alcoholics to people with a religious or cultural aversion to alcohol might take issue with its presence. This is especially true of an event that takes place on company property. Your best bet here might be to avoid alcohol altogether and risk the disappointment of a few party animals rather than create what could be a hostile atmosphere for some of your colleagues.
The concept of a hostile work environment raises the vexed subject of sexual harassment. It’s no use denying that what modern people now refer to as sexual harassment used to be almost the entire point of the office holiday party. One very popular game from back when secretaries were almost all female involved chasing the prettiest ones around the room. The winner was whichever male supervisor could tackle her and remove her underwear. Obviously, this sort of thing doesn’t figure into your office party planning, but in this case, the extreme best illustrates what used to be a normal mindset and how times have changed. A brief memo, sent out to all parties about a week in advance, would probably go a long way toward clearing up any misunderstandings in advance.
The office holiday party has come a long way over the years. Your party can be just as much fun as two or three generations of past workers enjoyed and, with a little bit for forethought, this year’s office holiday party can be enjoyed by everyone.
Nancy Anderson is the communities and article Editor for Beyond.com. Nancy has 10 years’ experience in the online job search business with Beyond. Nancy’s team produces dozens of articles every month for top internet sites. Follow Nancy and the Beyond team on https://twitter.com/BeyondJobs.
(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)