It’s just not fair!
You expect to be supervised and criticized and terrorized when you’re on the job. It’s just not right for you to be supervised and criticized and terrorized when you’re off the job.
For example, when you’re at an office party.
Whether it’s birthday party, a holiday party or just a team-building exercise detailing the CEO’s Tesla, the requirement to enjoy these events — or look like you’re enjoying them — is a significant challenge. You know you’re not going to have fun. You pray you will survive.
The goal of attending any office function is, of course, to stay long enough to show that you’re a loyal employee, but not so long that you punch out the snack machine. It is also a good opportunity to drink free and, if you handle it right, significantly cut grocery costs. No matter how cheap the company, you should be able to walk away with enough generic crackers and spray cheese to take care of your nutrition needs for a week. [I don’t care how much Amazon lowers prices at Whole Foods. A week’s supply of Hungry-Man Home-Style Meatloaf Dinners still costs beaucoups bucks.]
Could office parties be any worse?
According to a recent Karla L. Miller column in “The Washington Post Magazine,” some employers are making your good behavior, or lack thereof, at office parties part of your regular performance review.
You can imagine the consequences.
“Sorry, we have to let you go,” you manager tells you after accounting’s dreaded “Tax-Time Texas Hoe-Down” in the company cafeteria. “Your work is excellent, but you’re just not performing up to expectations in your electric slide.”
Miller’s article was prompted by a query from a reader.
“Is it legal to force people to attend these events as part of the performance appraisal process?” the reader writes, “If so, should I just suck it up and go, or try to explain my discomfort to my managers?”
Or, simply file a lawsuit.
According to Miller, the employer who includes “party animal” as a requirement for promotion “could have what employment discrimination law calls a ‘disparate impact’ on those who are unable to attend.”
Like they’re shy, or they have brains, or they don’t want to miss another episode of “Hip-Hop Squares.”
Miller’s recommendation is to avoid “bringing out the legal big guns.” I agree. There are ways to not only succeed at office parties, but to actually use them to jump-start your career.
As is often the case, preparation is key. Even when it is not requested, you show up in costume. Demonstrate your commitment to the company by arriving at the IT Department’s “Tropical Island Luau” dressed as a prisoner from a southern chain gang. Shackle yourself to the leg of the nearest Senior V.P. and you’re ready to party hearty.
If you are forced to wear one of those sticky, “HI, I’M…” name badges, take the opportunity to demonstrate your creativity with a badge that reads, “HI, I’M… still highly infectious,” or, “HI, I’M… a serial killer.” It’s a great way to show that you’re a fun person, and if the conversation goes sour, no one knows your name.
A critical party performance metric is networking. My recommendation is to talk to everyone, but listen to no one. It will just slow you down. If it’s a small party, and you’ve networked you way through the crowd, don’t be afraid to go around again.
“Have we met before?” you ask a person you’ve just met five minutes earlier, “you look so familiar.”
What a terrific way to show you’re a people person.
To dance or not to dance is the question if your company is run by sadists who insist on subjecting employees to their own bad taste in music. Rather than being tortured by hours of Vanilla Ice or Duran Duran, bring bagpipes to the party, hop up on a table, and get down. The fact that you don’t know how to play the bagpipes doesn’t matter. You’ll get points for thinking out of the box. You’ll also have a great reason to leave early, when the entire staff chases you and your accordion out of the party and onto the streets.
Clearly, working hard to have fun at office parties will not be easy, but it is certainly worth a try. If you can demonstrate outstanding performance at your company’s office parties, your boss may forgive your goofs, screw-ups and blunders everywhere else.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com