A sobering experience, or not, at the office Christmas party

Q: With the festive season fast approaching we are starting to plan our team’s Christmas party. This year it feels like a bit of a chore – am I wrong to see it as a missed opportunity to catch up on my “to do” list rather than an important team building exercise?

Oh, oh, oh dear. It seems like you have come down with that most infectious of conditions – Christmas fatigue disorder. Is it the fact you’ve been bombarded with Santa scenes in your local supermarket since October? Or perhaps you feel that with recession tightening its grip, council budgets being slashed and social workers’ public standing having never been lower there’s not much cheer to be had? You are of course not alone in suffering from a touch of bah-humbug when it comes to the office party, but you are overlooking the many positive aspects to this annual gathering.

Before we go on to that, though, I’d like to delve into the furthest reaches of your mind to look back at your office party experiences of Christmases past.

Let’s start in 2002. It had been a good year for your team – a positive Social Services Inspectorate report being the icing on the cake – and, boy, didn’t your colleagues let their hair down to celebrate. The Mojo bar had seen nothing like it before or since. It started with the social services director – overcome by seasonal good cheer – ordering half a dozen bottles of cheap champagne and ended with the student social worker taking on the school’s liaison officer at the drug and alcohol action team in a tequila slammer challenge. Unsurprisingly, the student won. You seemed to really enjoy the camaraderie and spirit of togetherness the office had back then. Oh, how things had changed by 2007.

Last year was obviously a low point in your office Christmas party experience. There are now so many agency staff working in the department that there was only a small gathering of the permanent staff for lunch at the Pizza Express in the high street.

At a tenner a head, the kitty only paid for a pizza and glass of wine – the champagne days are long gone – and after adjourning to the local pub most people had drifted off by early evening. You ended up being stuck with the office soak and recently separated middle manager who, slightly the worse for wear, proceeded to pour out his heart to you.

While last year was a sobering experience it’s important that you draw on your memories of the good times and try to see this year’s office gathering as a chance to relax and bond with your co-workers. Why not use it as an opportunity to get to know one of the new members of staff? Rather than using it to complain with all the old timers about how bad things are, try thinking about how you can work differently and what opportunities this could present to make office life more fulfilling.

If this fails to make you more optimistic about the year ahead, then just crack open another bottle of pinot grigio and make sure that this time you make an early exit.

By The Ghost of Christmas Past

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