Office Politics 101: Woe, woe woe — staff Christmas party is not for me
Q: Our staff Christmas party is coming up and I’m not looking forward to it. I’m not really a party animal, yet I do realize it is important to be sociable and I know I should attend. I feel this way every year. What should I do? I’m a woman, by the way.
A: It’s ironic that your company staff party should be upsetting you; after all, management is hosting this occasion to provide an opportunity for employees to socialize in a relaxing — and welcoming — setting.
You use the phrase “party animal”, which would lead me to believe that past Christmas parties have been hijacked to some extent by those employees who enjoy that dimension of socializing.
In many cases, these are the most energetic people who can add some welcome excitement to the atmosphere; unfortunately, however, they can also dominate and even intimidate quieter attendees.
Alcohol may be a factor in generating the kind of mood you don’t appreciate. Most employees no doubt are responsible, but there are will be those who use alcohol excessively as a social lubricant.
In some cases, the boisterous behaviour can almost exclusively be attributed to the effects of alcohol; management, therefore, could be responsible for allowing this conduct.
If there is only nominal supervision, the “party animals” can be expected to take over. These will generally be younger males who are happy to capture the attention of others, especially female co-workers.
The culture of office social functions also tends to magnify informal relationships — as you’ve probably noticed. In these settings, employees are permitted to engage in types of communication that could be less acceptable at the office.
The general result is that some people will find themselves feeling awkward or embarrassed when they return to work. Although they can be excused to some extent, their conduct has nevertheless has been observed by others.
Your experience with Christmas parties is unfortunate and I would suppose you don’t see any benefit to attending. Besides, if certain co-workers are destroying the atmosphere, then it is hardly surprising you would like to be excused.
I do think you should continue attending as your presence will send a positive message to management and co-workers alike.
If you don’t wish to drink, simply choose a ginger ale. Your beverage choice won’t be questioned and you can still enjoy mixing with co-workers you consider friends.
The social dimension of working in an office can be complicated and even stressful. Nonetheless, it is important you be seen as a member of the team, so be sure to attend the Christmas party and encourage management to set a positive tone for you and other like-minded colleagues.
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