We are entering the time of year that makes seasoned managers cringe and human resource directors want to leave town. Despite fine words to the contrary, there is little Peace on Earth at the office around this time because we are getting ready for the office Christmas, oops, I mean “holiday” party.
Yes, we’ve learned to choke on the word Christmas and insist that the December party where we dress in sparkles, bring wrapped gifts, and drink eggnog standing next to a lighted evergreen tree is just a winter event. But language games are the least of it when we have to plan the annual—“no one will be happy no matter what we do”–office holiday party.
The annual holiday party is ground zero for what is known in Human Resources as the CLM, or Career Limiting Move. Career gurus give us the usual reminders: you must attend, you should not drink, don’t dress like a stripper and try to make small talk with many people.
The list of issues is long: Should we go out to a restaurant or stay in the building? Will there be dancing? Music? And biggest bugaboo: booze or no booze? Even those of us in recovery a long time get split on this one.
Divisiveness is in the details. One of the words tossed around liberally in the weeks leading up to the party is “they” as in they don’t have kids, they don’t like to drink, they drink too much, or they don’t have to pay a baby-sitter. Preferences will also break down by personality type: Extroverts love the parties; Introverts want to die.
And people in recovery? Newcomers will stay away; old timers will try to be of service.
So what’s at the heart of this holiday ritual? Well, for starters we have strong cultural memories and it’s dark this time of year and we are longing for light. Workplaces have their own kind of darkness so it’s human to want to brighten that up too.
Today, in our workplaces, we play out that feeling. In mature recovery we have the skills to create instead of criticize, to find the good instead of the gossip and despite all the tension it takes to get there, we’ll toast our teams at the party with hopes for prosperity and peace at work.