Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Office Party

Now I pretty much have everything done, work-wise, that needs to be done before the new year. I'm also done with parties and baking. That means that I'm declaring this afternoon my "office party." Hey, just because I work for myself and work alone, it doesn't mean that I don't get an office party. My office party generally consists of spending the afternoon reading and relaxing while listening to Christmas music. In the days of having a day job, I certainly got my fill of other kinds of parties.

At my first job, it wasn't so bad. We merely all went out to lunch at a reasonably nice restaurant, with the office picking up the tab. To me, that's a good way of using a party to reward the staff for hard work all year -- by not putting an extra burden on them. We got free food and a little extra time away from the office. Since I freelance for that office, I've continued to go to that party (though this year either they're not having it or they're not inviting freelancers).

My next job was at an ad agency, so they seemed to feel the need to show us how creative they were with our company parties. The first year I worked there, we had a fairly typical hotel catered dinner type thing, but with a murder mystery show thrown in. Only it wasn't the usual murder mystery dinner where we got to solve the mystery. It had something to do with clowns and other weirdness that I couldn't quite follow. I blame that party for pretty much ruining what had looked like it might be a promising relationship. That was the last time I brought a date to a company party (long story). The next year, they decided to have a costume party, and the party was held at the Ripley's Believe it or Not/wax museum. Try finding a costume at Christmas. I went as Little Red Riding Hood, using my Renaissance festival "villager" costume and my reversible hooded rain cape that had a red lining. The following year, it was a "flashback prom," where you were supposed to wear retro prom attire (I used a dress from a dorm formal from college). With that company, the party that was supposed to reward us ended up not only taking up a Friday or Saturday night of our own time during a busy time of year but also usually cost us money since we had to come up with a costume or other very specific attire.

At my next job, the first boss there had a clever idea. We had our holiday party in early January. The idea was that not only did the office save money by not having a party during the peak party season, but also didn't add stress to the staff by adding another event to the season. The first party we had when I worked there came after a state-wide staff meeting in the afternoon, and then the party that night. It was something of a mystery party, since we loaded the bus at the hotel where the meeting was, and then went to the party location. It was at an "old west" style town, with our party in the "opera house," with a barbecue dinner, square dancing and country dancing. The main thing I remember from that party (other than trying to teach my Australian boss how to two-step) was that one of our massive Texas cold fronts hit that afternoon. It had been quite warm all week, and they even laughed at me when I showed up for the staff meeting with a coat when it was in the mid 70s. They weren't laughing as much when it was in the 40s when we loaded the bus and definitely weren't laughing when we had to take a hay ride from the bus to the party site when it was in the 30s. I was the one laughing by the time we were on the bus back to the hotel and it was 27 degrees. Watching the weather forecast paid off. The following year we had another late party, but mostly because we were transitioning between bosses so nothing had been planned, and we just had dinner and games at Dave and Buster's. We had a more traditional hotel party during December the next year, since that hotel was our client. And then the dot com bust hit and we had a pot-luck at someone's house (I was laid off at the end of the following January).

So, my rule for a good office party is that if it's supposed to be a reward, it shouldn't be a hassle and take away from employees' free time. Even if the party ends up being fun, it's not exactly a reward to have a mandatory after-hours event. That's like saying, "To thank you for your hard work, I'm making you work Friday night."

Hmm, since I have a book on hold at the library I need to pick up, I may take myself out to lunch at the library cafe. They have really good soup, and I do like supporting a local business.

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