We’re less than one week into December and my calendar is already chock full of miserable holiday parties.
I don’t mean regular holiday parties. Those can be kind of nice when I’m able to kick the hermit in me and focus on good ol’ holiday
cheer wine. I mean work parties.
I’m sorry: work “parties”.
I’m quite certain that I have more interaction with other humans per diem in December than the rest of the other months combined. Unfortunately, most of those interactions are the result of mandatory work fun.
As many of you know, I harbor a deep disdain for a variety of workplace traditions. Maybe all of them, actually. I hate the obligatory signing of a non-descript birthday card that some poor, abused office worker had to spend their lunch hurriedly retrieving and wondering if they would be able to be reimbursed for it. I hate the staff meetings where we act like the stale chips we found in the office closet will make our review of redundant agenda items more palatable. And above all, my beautiful butterflies, I hate mandatory work fun.
You know: mandatory work fun. It’s when your boss thinks it will help with “teambuilding” if you can all go do something fun outside the office together. Or worse: when your boss thinks it will help if you can do something fun inside the office together.
I have found this to be absolutely never true. Not once in my entire work experience have I been willing to pitch in more to lend Steve a hand with any of his tasks because I learned to respect and understand him more fully as a result of the way he handles himself after three tequila shots. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s just never happened for Steve and me that way.
That’s, of course, if Steve can even bring himself to drink in the first place. Mandatory work fun, in my experience, has meant happy hours where no one can actually drink because your boss is right there. And they’re usually talking about something horrible. Last Christmas, for example, my boss was actually doling out task items from the head of the table after pretending we were there for festivities; people had to get out notebooks or write on cocktail napkins. The Christmas before I distinctly recall a very vivid regaling by my boss of a stomach bug they got while traveling and the flurry of details that followed their plane ride back to the States.
I believe it wrapped up at about the same time our food arrived.
To add insult to injury, your boss won’t go where the office wants to go. In fact, they won’t even ask. They’ll just pick a place that matches their sentiments, which, as a rule, are almost never on par with everyone else’s sentiments. It will be a place where you can’t quite get comfortable with anything on the menu and even if you just do drinks you’ll be dishing out twice as much per beer as you would at your favorite joint down the street. Deep down, you’ll wonder if your boss will let the light of holiday joy infect their heart with the gift of giving by picking up the tab for the group or doing a round on them.
I’m barely a week into December and my planner is so rampant with mandatory work fun that even a frugal selection and a free parking spot each time will munch away a decent portion of my paycheck. Heck, my calendar is so rampant with required fake festivities that I can’t even get the time off I need for real festivities. Honest to all holy things the other day I was denied a day off the week of Christmas because I was told I have to be at work celebrating it with work folk.
For now, at least, I’m trying to find solace in the fact that there have not yet been plans announced for secret Santa-ing: my least favorite Christmas workplace experience. Perhaps this year I can be spared the terrible task of pretending to know someone well enough to purchase something they won’t regift while also not spending so much they think I make more than them or so little that they think I’m a cheapskate.
Why can’t we all just agree to keep the good parts about December in the office (the time off) and get rid of the bad parts about December in the office (everything else)?
Maybe unions should focus on these sorts of things. After all, these are the items that make a big difference in my daily life. Do you have any idea how much I would pay for a membership to a group that protects me from awkward office Secret Santas, terrible mandatory happy hours and required work festivities that override actual real non-work festivities? A lot. I would pay a lot. At least as much as the tab for my cheap beer and appetizers at mandatory work fun outings.
Unfortunately I’m not sure anti-work-festivities unions exist. At least, not yet.
It’s Christmastime, after all, and I do have a list to write.♣