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Dublin: 17 °C Thursday 30 October, 2014

Column: Is the work Christmas party past its sell-by date?

There’s enough potential for making mistakes when we’re with our nearest and dearest over the festive season without adding insult to injury by getting plastered at the office party, writes Tony Moore.

Tony Moore

THERE ARE MANY traditions associated with Christmas such as Midnight Mass, carol singing, end of year appraisals, Dad not being able to work the latest electronic gizmo, being nice to our in-laws, being disappointed by our Christmas present, and parties – especially the work Christmas party.

A piece like this one is also a bit of a tradition; warnings from a miserable spoilsport counsellor who wouldn’t know how to have a good time if it hit him in the face. Nevertheless I’m going to soldier on with this article.

Do we really believe that if we get drunk on the boss’s plonk (which he/she will claim back on expenses), that that behaviour is somehow overlooked because it’s Christmas? I don’t think so. Too many of us have put our big feet in it because we think it doesn’t count because someone decided it’s Christmas and we’ll all be buddies.

Indiscretions

We end up kissing someone we’ve had the hots for all year, only to have somebody take a photo and post it on Facebook. Try explaining that one when some helpful body posts it for your partner to see in the guise of it being a bit of a ‘laugh’. It would be very hurtful for your partner to see something like that and to have such indiscretions exposed to him/her in a very public fashion. Then there’s the awkward situation of spending the whole of next year facing your colleague with both of you avoiding each other.

We’ve all heard the post-mortem ‘goss’ the morning after; ‘who was with who?’, ‘where did those two disappear to? I thought they were both married!’, do you really want to be the subject of that gossip? The last thing we want to do is go too far with too much to drink and hurt our partners by carrying on with somebody else. Sadly, the work Christmas Party seems to feature this type of behaviour a lot more than other gatherings.

So why do we carry on with this pointless exercise? Who in the HR department thinks it’s a good idea? Maybe it’s because they have been charged by someone else further up the food chain to do it and because they want to keep their job they agree to a function that nobody really wants to attend? It’s all part of being part of the ’company family’. Surely the time has come for those of us who are in work and those that run companies to be more imaginative?

Many would be grateful to stop this dreaded event

Many of your employees would be most grateful to stop this annual dreaded event. The work Christmas party has long passed its sell-by date. Many employees may prefer the cost of the party as a Christmas bonus instead to help with the financial burdens around the festive period. The annual groan when the date is revealed says a lot about the dread we feel at this time of year.

It’s not all bad of course. We may get that peck from Ciara on reception or Peter from accounts may give us a hug but is the rest of it worth it? The knowing guilt of having said or done something that we wouldn’t have said or done any other time of the year because it’s ‘Christmas’. We thank our boss for giving us yet another bottle of cream liqueur that even our maiden aunt wouldn’t drink. Then we’ve got to make our way home.

‘Thank God that’s over’ we say to ourselves and breathe a heavy sigh of relief. How many of us mid-year look forward to yet another works party with baited breath? I ask you to have the courage either not to go or not to drink whilst at this torturous event, and leave early. There is enough potential for getting it all wrong when we are in close proximity to our nearest and dearest for the best part of two weeks this festive season without adding insult to injury by getting plastered at the office party.

Establish your own tradition. Be bold. Those that organise these events take heed. You should also establish a new tradition within your organisation. Organise something that gives your colleagues a sense that they have contributed something worthwhile to someone else at Christmas. You, employers, have ample opportunity through the year to thank staff for their hard work. You do not have to wait till the ‘festive season’. Your firm’s new tradition should be one of festive philanthropy and not of worthless festive binges. Which one would you rather be known for?

Tony Moore is a counsellor for Relationships Ireland. Relationships Ireland is a not-for-profit organisation that offers confidential counselling and currently has a special introductory offer for an initial consultation. For more information or to book a consultation you can contact 1890 380 380, email info@relationshipsireland.com or visit www.relationshipsireland.com.

We’re interested in your ideas and opinions – do you have a story you would like to see featured in Opinion & Insight? Email opinions@thejournal.ie

Read: Cross animals off your list of gifts this Christmas, says animal rights group

Read: One third of Irish workers admit drinking too much at their Christmas party

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