It usually goes down like this. Bing! New email. Subject line: Company Holiday Party. Your mental reply for the RSVP demand, “oh shit.” It’s a Hobson’s Choice. Don’t go and the boss, HR drones, and the POS who wants your job will construe you are worthless malcontent who disavows Christmas, New Years, Hanukkah, office morale and teetering on the edge of tweeting negatively about Boxing Day.
Do go, and you subject yourself to stilted small talk, worked into a corner by the guy who has no friends but thinks you’re open to a relationship, handcuffed by your attempt to balance a drink, plate of bacon-wrapped rutabaga and mini parfaits while being forced into giving high-fives as a form of holiday greeting.
Can you tell I’m not a fan of the office holiday party? Oh, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe in going out to dinner or lunch or even just drinks with your immediate team as a way of celebrating the holidays and reveling in all the things you accomplished together.
Before I retired last July from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, I made it a tradition to treat my team to a celebratory activity. Sometimes I bought them a meal. Other times it was a fun activity like bowling or curling, plus I’d spring for food. It was a personal gift to thank them for their hard work. Plus, honestly, if they performed well, it helped me make a better case for that big bonus. Did I say “big bonus?” Sorry, I just made myself reverse digestion.
The big company party is where I draw the line. Sure, there’s sometimes pretty good food and maybe even some booze, but it’s generally late in the day or completely after hours, and frankly, by about 3 p.m. each day, I’ve seen enough of everyone. Love ya…during work hours. Then I’m Fred Flintstone, hopping in my car singing “yabba dabba doo!” as I swing onto the freeway and realize that tomorrow I’ll have to re-learn everyone’s names.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are elements of the office holiday party I enjoy. It’s especially entertaining to watch the clutch of ass kissers in full pucker mode as they attack some boss they think will be receptive to all their verbal hickeys. We often place bets as to when the poor schlub will give the silent signal for a lackey to ring their cell phone and fake an “urgent” meeting as a means of escape. Then there are the office hot chick and hunky guy who seem to attract the attentions of the opposite gender who have been secretly taking cell phone photos of them from across the office and posting them in their health club lockers. Not wanting to make a scene in front of their peers and supervisors the hotties cool their jets while being hit on harder than a jockey’s whip on Seabiscuit. Of course, then there’s the guy playing Santa who’s costume not only bulges from his belly full of jelly, but an overflowing ostomy bag.
The truth is, I love the holidays, the customs, the music, the celebrations… and I appreciate the opportunities, friendships and rewards of the workplace. I also appreciate the attempt by bosses to spread some holiday cheer by tossing a little soiree’. It’s a nice gesture. Aw, OK…I’ll RSVP that I’ll attend. But don’t hold it against me when I give that silent signal.
Happy holidays everyone!
Are you suffering from a syndrome I call “Simulated Holiday Amiability Malady,” or SHAM? It manifests itself in several ways, most notably in the workplace.
Here’s SHAM’s progression.For most of the year a person, let’s call him Schmeckel, will avoid you as one would a victim of Swine Flu, or abuse of Old Spice. Schmeckel is pretty sure you’re after his job, his office and premium parking space. It’s not true, but Schmeckel is a schmuck and sits alone in the cafeteria with an extra tray and an empty soup bowl so people will think he actually has a lunch companion who just got up to go to the washroom.
Snap! It’s Thanksgiving and SHAM carriers infect everyone they see with an obnoxious and insidious strain of false sincerity and feigned friendliness. “How you doin’!” Schmeckel may suddenly ask you. “Have a great Thanksgiving? Plans for the holidays?” Your soul tells you to invite him to enjoy a solo honeymoon, but you see, SHAM is terribly contagious. You are now obligated, against your will, to reciprocate the bogus buddy-buddy and reply you had a wonderful turkey with family and have big plans for Chanukah, Christmas, New Years, Groundhog Day and every day on a calendar that Hallmark cashes in on.
The most dangerous venue for contracting SHAM is the office holiday party. You have to attend because the boss will take 25 points off your annual evaluation if you don’t show up reducing your bonus to a Twix bar. For three or four hours you’re stuck in a small space with a large number of people who wish you dead but are all forced to put on happy, insincere faces, toasting, boasting, hugging, mugging, mentally barfing, for the benefit of convincing the boss he/she is lording over a homogeneous workplace, which enhances their chances of scoring a promotion to a position for which they are not qualified.
SHAM’s gestation period expires when the ball drops in Times Square marking the new year and, finally, the end of the holiday season. When you return to work on January 2nd, all of SHAM’s effects are instantly forgotten, its scars completely healed, and until that fourth Thursday the following November, you can return to a relaxing normalcy of honest loathing.