No More Company Holiday Parties?

According to The Wall Street Journal's Independent Street, nearly half of U.S. small business owners are planning a holiday for their office, store or business in 2007, up one percentage point from 2006.

Every company I've worked for, large or small, has had a holiday party for employees, and often spouses. The results have ranged from lovely to boring to a chore for all involved. My best was a party where a group of us in sales planned, cooked and served a holiday meal to the highest performing group in our division. The worst -- a holiday party when I saw my (married) boss kiss one of my (married) peers. Yuck!

What's your take? Are holiday office parties helpful to morale -- or are they obsolete? What are the best -- and worst -- holiday office parties you've been to? If it were your decision, would you revamp or remove your company's holiday party from the calendar?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  December 7, 2007; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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Posted by: fred | December 7, 2007 8:04 AM

If it were my decision, instead of a fancy party I would rather just have something low-key like a homemade cookie potluck in a conference room. I would love to see my company donate the money that would have been spent on a holiday party to a local charity in all the employees' names. Employees could vote on which charity.

Posted by: leslie4 | December 7, 2007 8:12 AM

The best were when I worked for a not-for-profit genome institute (TIGR). Craig Venter and his then-wife Claire Frasier (current president of TIGR) gave a great party and they did it in January. What a great idea! They called it Winter Gala or something.

The worst were the lab parties for my first job out of college. I came to dread them. The bosses would drink too much and start saying nasty things loudly about each other (they were a married couple). They really enjoyed ribald jokey gifts but would always take it too far.

Currently I work for an enormous company so no party would please everyone. Our sector of the business is having a Dave and Busters party. I'm not going because I'll have charge of my daughter at that hour (4-7 PM) and gaming isn't my thing. I must have guessed our demographic wrong -I thought we were too old for D&B (in general)!

Posted by: blinny | December 7, 2007 8:15 AM

One of my former employers used to throw a lavish holiday party that was expensive and other the top and generally something that only a subset of people truly enjoyed. Except for one tradition...there was a usually meek scientist with an incredibly wicked sense of humor. For weeks before the party he would waste company time by writing a 30 minute roast of EVERYONE. It was scream-out-loud funny and he came close to getting fired every year. That was PRICELESS. I am still amazed by his guts and wit.

Posted by: leslie4 | December 7, 2007 8:19 AM

I like parties. They're fun. For me anyway - since we don't celebrate Christmas, there's so little stress for this 'season' yet I get to enjoy the parties and the lights, etc. I try to stay away from the mall.

My company has a party tomorrow night - but we're not going cause we were invited to another party. My dept is actually having an offsite lunch, but not til after the holidays. Then our group (the SVPs department) is apparently having a little afternoon out in a couple of weeks - which was surprising, cause he didn't do that last year. It's fun for me, and it's great. It's a great way to meet people in our office - sometimes you wouldn't meet them otherwise. And a social setting makes things better (but obviously, work gets talked about). I have lots of fun. My DH gets grumpy this time of year and the partying etc, make things a little better.

My next door neighbor has a christmas eve party every year we go to - we always look forward to that, too!

I think it's nice for companies to do *something*. They have cut back everywhere and it's nice when there's something to look forward to.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 7, 2007 8:20 AM

This year will be my first holiday party. My previous company had them, but I didn't know many of my co-workers because I worked from home, so I didn't feel comfortable going.

I'm excited for this year's party because I love all my co-workers and we've become friends outside of work. But it's from 1-5 on a weekday, which seems kind of odd to me to be at a bar with a DJ. Oh well, at least we get to miss work!

We're also having a potluck and gift exchange. No one was forced to participate--it is completely voluntary. That should be fun too.

Posted by: Meesh | December 7, 2007 8:22 AM

blinny: we're going to D&B next month too. Must be something in the air.

Well, the last company I was at it was HORRIBLE. It was a hotel co., so we'd have a luncheon at one of the hotels (which was fine). But the dept I was in would have this all day event - where we'd volunteer in the AM and go somewhere for lunch. The dept had horrible morale problems (due to the VP who didn't know what she was doing) - but we all had to pretend about how wonderful everything was - and one of the director's would spend weeks putting together a presentation about the whole group. Which was really mind numbing and time wasting. Glad I'm not there anymore...:)

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 7, 2007 8:23 AM

Best party- At a modern art gallery, catered by the best in town. Dept of Medicine, Big State U. It was lovely.

Worst party- Pretty much all the rest. Even when the booze is free and there's a band, I'm just not into it. I prefer smaller, personal parties. The government takes the cake, though, since they can't spend any money on the employees. We end up paying $15 to make our own sandwiches from those big plates of deli meat. Yuck.

I'm with Leslie: cookie party in the staff room is more than enough. It has nothing to do with morale if people are only there because they feel obligated to show their faces.

Posted by: atb2 | December 7, 2007 8:25 AM

off-topic to atb:

That was a neat tidbit about Stephen King in yesterday's comments. Both my husband and I are huge King fans, so I'll pass that along to him.

BTW, have you seen The Mist? Aside from the ridiculous music score and halting dialogue, it was not as bad as Dreamcatcher.

Posted by: Meesh | December 7, 2007 8:26 AM

Currently, we have a potluck at lunchtime, which is great - such a wide range of cuisine and the lunch room is decorated festively. It's a morale booster.

The worst have been those stuffy banquet type things. As harsh as it sounds, I really don't want to see most people outside of work, and if you need alcohol to get through an such an evening, that's not a good thing!

Posted by: acquaphile | December 7, 2007 8:31 AM

OT to Meesh- The Magnum isn't OFFICIALLY a low man car, but it has that comic book-y, Dick Tracy look about it, and the windows are tinted so dark you can't see in. Every time I see one, I think, "Where's that low man off to?" It's very menacing.

Posted by: atb2 | December 7, 2007 8:32 AM

I've worked in industry most of my life, and now am in academia at a local university.

In three companies I worked with in industry, the holiday parties were miserable, dress to the nines affairs where people stood around uncomfortably and made small talk until they thought they could reasonably leave.

Here, at the university, we have a catered lunch that everyone participates in, and enjoys much more, I think.

Posted by: skyebluescottie | December 7, 2007 8:37 AM

OT to Meesh- No, I haven't seen The Mist. SK books to film so rarely work out, Shawshank Redemption and The Stand excepted, of course. I REALLY hope they don't attempt to do The Dark Tower since multi-part, sequal films are in vogue.

Posted by: atb2 | December 7, 2007 8:40 AM

i know this is off topic but the stehpen king gunslinger seris would be PERFECT in a CG movie (think beowulf or 300) or even better a japanese manga animation!

Posted by: nall92 | December 7, 2007 8:51 AM

Meesh hit the nail on the head -- if you like your co-workers any office party is more fun. I find it easier to go during the day or right at tail end of a workday sans partner to preserve personal/family time.

Worst party ever was in the beginning of a new year to celebrate meeting a sales quota. Approximately 30 people in local steakhouse with spirited (read loud) group, heavy drinking (which made them louder and bawdier) and other patrons glaring at our group. Boyfriend was designated driver so he, boss' pregnant wife and myself were the only people not sloppy drunk. He gets a prize for enduring that.

Luckily I only have one event this year but the juggle (on WSJ) had a topic going on people with multiple work holiday party obligations (client parties, etc). UGH.

OT to atb: contractors have it worse in gov't environment - we have to take leave to attend gov't functions.

Posted by: tntkate | December 7, 2007 8:52 AM

I love this topic because I get to share my creepy story!

I worked for a monthly newspaper back in NY several years ago and the owner/boss (who is also the town's mayor) dressed up as Santa for the party. We had one of those "Secret Santa" gift exchanges and (I kid you not), he handed out the gifts and had us sit on his lap (in front of his wife who thought it was great and his two teenage kids). And we had to tell Santa what we wanted for Christmas...At that point, I had already wanted a new job, but didn't muster the courage to say it!

Then this whacky woman gets her little gift bag from Santa and says that she hopes it's a gun to kill Joey (made the name up, but it was her ex-husband). Some people chuckled, but it was truly a "wow" moment. Not too long after (within days), Joey's dead from an "accidental" overdose (he'd been on pain medications from a car accident so the story went), but per the woman, it was not suicide (sure!). Mind you, this woman not only counted the days until the divorce papers were signed, she celebrated the day it was official, too. Suddenly, she became the distraught "wife" and it was pathetic. I didn't even go to the wake because of the whole party incident, but I hear the act was good. It wasn't too long after that she had a brand new car, too. Guess Joey didn't get a chance to change his beneficiary after the divorce. And of course they had a kid together. I can't imagine how messed up she is these days.

Posted by: DLC1220 | December 7, 2007 9:08 AM

regarding the off topic conversation - sadly I've read recently that movies based on the gunslinger series ARE in the works. I can't remember where I read that, but I recall being appalled. Although, I think they could be done in CG and not stink. Also, I never thought about it before, but that Dodge DOES look like a low man car!

On topic - I have never, ever been to a company holiday party that was not a complete disaster. The very worst was the one where a coworker, a really intelligent and pretty low key guy got pretty darn drunk and told the whole room that he knifed a man to death who had threatened him and his wife as they returned to their car late one night years before. Needless to say, that party broke up quickly...

Posted by: vblackwelder | December 7, 2007 9:29 AM

More off topic:

This article says that it may be a TV series (how horrible) or a movie. JJ Abrams does OK, so maybe it won't completely stink.

Posted by: vblackwelder | December 7, 2007 9:32 AM

We have a very small group so our holiday party ends up being more work than it is worth. It isn't fun when people sign up for a particular item (food or cutlery and paper products) and then don't follow thru. The stress level isn't worth it so I told them this year that if they want something (it has to be next Friday) that they need to find another sucker to try to organize it/herd the cats/nail jello to the tree.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | December 7, 2007 9:41 AM

After years of holiday luncheons (which I usually had to plan) or holiday parties in the large conf. room from 2 - 5, I finally work for a company that has a formal party at night with fancy dress and SOs. I work for a small company and the boss and his wife makes it a point to walk around and talk to everyone. The food is good and there's an open bar and although we see each other 5 days a week 8 hours a day, everyone gets so excited, the week leading up to it is always "are you going?", "what are you wearing?" Its always very elegant and so far no one has embarrassed themselves, but there's still tonight.

Posted by: milesdy | December 7, 2007 9:46 AM

more SK off-topic- I meant Stand By Me, not the Stand, was a good movie. Oops. I'm not in favor of a Dark Tower anything, TV or movie! It does give SK a chance to play himself, though. How on earth are they going to do Oy or the lobstrosities? It's not going to satisfy anyone, like LOTR.

Posted by: atb2 | December 7, 2007 9:50 AM

I have always worked for the government. So we paid for our own parties. They were a lot of fun and generally boosted morale. My husband once worked for private industry. His small company hosted a lovely holiday party with wonderful door prizes. Some dinner certificates, weekends away, digital cameras etc... But overall I think they were underpaid at that small company. So this was one way they could give back to their employees.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 7, 2007 9:53 AM

My husbands office rents out a local restaurant for an evening. The food is great, there is an open bar and everyone gets at least a little dressed up. It is usually a week night, so his boss usually authorizes a "please just be in by 10" policy for the next day. It is a great chance to catch up and mingle. We look forward to it every year.

Posted by: michelewilson | December 7, 2007 10:00 AM

I have three business holiday parties to attend this year, and they're *all* for my employer, a college. I'm organizing my little department's lunchtime potluck and gift exchange, which I'm not thrilled about but I'm the boss's secretary so it's my job. It'll be a good party, though, since we all like one another. I also have to attend my division's party, which won't be as much fun: we don't have a staff room, so it's being held in the secretarial pool area, from 2-4pm and we are expected to return to our desks and work 4-5pm. Then in January I have the school "Ring In The New Year" party, which is after work, offsite, no spouses, but the entire student body attends and somebody invariably drinks too much. My survival strategy is to show up early, say hello-and-goodbye to the VIPs, and leave early.

Posted by: northgs | December 7, 2007 10:03 AM

Once when I was fresh out of college, I worked for a boss who, as part of the holiday festivities, had everyone in our department come over and decorate his family's house -- including climbing up on the roofs and stringing lights and so forth. Fun for him. For us, not so much. Especially not in the frigid New England weatehr. And strangely enough, none of us ever had the nerve to refuse to show up.

I always thought it would make a great episode of "The Office" -- including the scene where the Hindu/Muslim/Jewish coworker is injured while falling off a ladder and the boss in quesiton has some explaning to do to the HR department. (Unfortunately, I am not making this up -- not even the part about the Hindu coworker falling off the ladder.)

Posted by: justlurking | December 7, 2007 10:12 AM

Years and years ago, in my first job out of college, I worked for a company with about 50 other people. There were three other women in my "pod" in the office. At the holiday party that year, all three of the women had bought me a gift, and one for each other. Of course, no one had mentioned this to me, so I didn't have gifts for them. One of them actually said "you didn't buy us gifts?". So, I went out that night and bought gifts for the three of them, left that job soon afterwards and have done my best to avoid Christmas parties at work ever since.

Posted by: jjtwo | December 7, 2007 10:17 AM

Oh my god, I don't wanna hear about company Christmas parties right now.

I work for myself, so hey, no party. But I plan my husband's office party. He works for a small branch office of a larger company out in DC (less than 10 employees). The corporate office is kind enough to throw a nice budget (per couple) the office's way every year so we don't all have to blow $$$ in airfare and hotel to go to the main party.

When we transferred out here, my husband made the mistake of asking if there was anything he could do to help (just being polite). The planning was unceremoniously dumped on him, even though we were still learning how to get around town, let alone know where the nice restaurants were.

The first year my husband took care of it, no problem. He just asked what people had done previously and made the reservation after polling around the office for acceptable dates. However, he started traveling a lot, so I had to take it over for him.

I *slightly* improved the process, having done some event planning before (mostly I just actually confirmed our reservations and got creative with the small gift bags to the wives - nothing huge). So the guys in the office - AND their wives - have now started to make previously unheard of demands, feeling they have an official party planner.

This year, I sent out several options and several dates in early October. No one could decide on anything in particular ("all sounds good!") or the date ("we're free anytime!").

So as time was running short, I picked a previously popular weekend and a previously popular location, thinking that would work since everyone seemed pretty mellow this year. Silly wabbit me.

Everyone now chimed in (including the wives by IM and phone calls to my office number!) how the weekend didn't work for them or they didn't want to go to the restaurant. In the most offended tone possible, not to mention several of the wives simply told me what weekends would work for them, and bridled when I pointed out that those weekends didn't work for other people. (With the smallness of our office, the boss insists on picking a weekend amenable to everyone - I can't just pick and ask for RSVP's.)

Then the employees and wives decided they wanted to try a completely different option - something that was basically a happy hour, as opposed to the "have a nice dinner out on us" that is the usual Christmas party. And presented it to me as a fait accompli- THIS is what we were doing, how could I have possibly been so stupid?

Having simply thought of the idea and not actually done the work of researching it, that lovely task fell to me. As it turned out, on the two dates that were acceptable to the entire crowd, the facility they liked was already booked by a large parties, so it simply wasn't possible.

To try and keep them happy, I looked for several similar alternatives (same activity, same level of food, different locations)...and I was summarily snapped at they didn't want to do any of THOSE - they weren't *special* enough.

Pardon my language, but WTF???? It was special at one location but not the other? I even checked with my neighbor who has lived here a long time - she concurred that I had chosen appropriately similar facilities (if not better ones) and wasn't sure what the people were talking about.

Then they decided they wanted to go to one of the nicest restaurants in town (one of the original options that had been pooh-poohed)...AND do a happy hour thing.

At this point, the boss chimed in and pointed out there was a budget so that wasn't happening....over which there was grumbling. I then reminded the crew (nicely but pointedly) that we were lucky to have a local party at all, since many of the other small satellite offices had to fly or drive back to DC to attend the main party.

That stopped the grumbling cold, since most of the wives consider the entire DC area to be as scary and crime-ridden as Central Park at 2 am. Not to mention they have to actually dress up (the party is generally business formal - I keep telling them an excellent suit or classic/classy LBD with good jewelry will work, but they think they need actual, sequined, evening formal-wear), so they don't like going.

I never sent out some exceptionally snotty responses to the snippy e-mails I received, suggesting "we" just start over with the planning process again, because "no one had considered what *they* wanted to do" (because I didn't research their new option or present them with options that were their own previous choices). It did, however, feel exceptionally good to write them ;)

I finally just made a reservation and informed them of the time and date and left it at that. And I will be tapping someone else to plan the party next year, 'cause I've had it. They can herd the cats...I will be the most recalcitrant tabby of the bunch!

Okay - sorry. That felt better. These people were driving me crazy....

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 7, 2007 10:21 AM


atb, gotcha RE the Magnum. I totally agree, which is why I took it for a fact!

Most SK movies are crap. The Dark Towers will be too, although my husband would love to see Clint Eastwood as Roland.

I also hear that they're going to make The Long Walk a movie. Talk about a bummer ending!

Posted by: Meesh | December 7, 2007 10:30 AM

justlurking, that cracked me up. It would absolutely make a good episode of The Office.

Our office potluck is going to be an all day event in a conference where people just come in and out as they please to munch on food.

I signed up to bring some food. I thought of pasta salad. But now I'm trying to figure out something else because I'm worried we're not going to have enough food. But what else can sit out, not refridgerated or heated, for 6 hours? What will taste good at room temp? Any suggestions?

Posted by: Meesh | December 7, 2007 10:38 AM

meesh- Cookies! Nothing like cookies for lunch! You can also bring in a crockpot and keep dips, chili, ect heated all day.

justlurking- That was awesome. Who needs writers? The true stories are too good to make up.

Chasmosaur- HeeHee. I've been the uber-witch wife as my husband plans his office party. AT OUR HOUSE. I begged and pleaded to take elsewhere, but the best he would do is keep the guest list to his office and not all 3 DC offices. Fine, I'll clean the house, but that's it, and I'm not cleaning for more than an hour. And I'm not shopping or cooking. And this just in: I have strept throat, which tends to go systemic on me and will probably spread to the baby. I sure can't wait until tomorrow. Maybe the baby and I can go lay on our neighbor's couch.

Posted by: atb2 | December 7, 2007 10:53 AM

I've worked for lots of companies that did nothing at all for the holidays. The company I work for now (this will be my third Christmas with them) does celebrate, which is nice. Two years ago, we did the 'party room' at a local BBQ place, after hours, with an open bar, with spouses, which was nice. That was a MUCH bigger group than my current group, though. Last year, with my new group, we just went to lunch together, and this year we've joined with the rest of our floor and are having a '12 days of treats' potluck cookie event over the course of the month and a catered lunch on the deck of a riverboat with bingo for gift cards. It's lovely to have people you enjoy working with to celebrate with - if I didn't like these people, I'd hate it because we do events regularly. Baseball night, costume contests at Halloween, ice cream socials - it's like a dorm with a paycheck around here sometimes.

Posted by: RebeccainAR | December 7, 2007 10:57 AM

Long post alert: Food (as it were) for thought re work-place holiday parties, in an Associated Press article last year:

"Be aware of holiday party pitfalls"
By Joyce Rosenberg

There are many good reasons for a small business owner to hold a holiday party for customers or employees. At the same time, owners should be aware of some of the possible pitfalls that can turn a festive event into a nightmare.

Many of the problems at parties are the result of someone having too much to drink. The most innocuous incidents might involve employees, customers or other guests spilling drinks or behaving a little outrageously and making fools of themselves. But, if someone is offended or physically hurt as a result of their poor behavior, it becomes the business owner's problem.

Chris Boman, a partner in the Irvine, Calif., office of the law firm Fisher & Phillips, said small business owners need to set a professional tone for the party, before and during the event.

"It's not just a party, it's part of your job. This is still a work function," Boman said.

Moreover, if an owner has managers or supervisors working for you, they need to know "they're going to be your eyes and ears and act accordingly to set the standard for your subordinate employees." Jerry Hunter, an attorney with the law firm Bryan Cave in St.

Louis, suggests a stern approach: "If they do go to the expense to sponsor the holiday party, employers should go to extra effort to remind employees that they are expected to conduct themselves appropriately." Still, it often happens that people have too much to drink and there's trouble - Boman listed sexual harassment, fist fights and "comments that someone wouldn't normally make in the workplace" topping the list of issues that his firm's clients have had to deal with.

But remember, it doesn't have to be an employee who gets a company in trouble - if one of your customers or clients is the offender, you can still be liable.

There are ways to prevent people from drinking too much. You can have an alcohol-free party, of course. Boman suggested, "use a cash bar or ticket system," where each employee gets a certain amount of tickets and one drink for each.

Still, you might need to do some policing - some employees might hand their unwanted tickets over to a colleague who will then end up drinking too much. If the party is at your company's offices, Boman suggests using a professional bartender who's trained to tell when guests have had too many and who'll cut them off.

You also need to be prepared to tell employees yourself they've had too much to drink, and for your managers to do the same. You all need to be chaperones more than guests at the party.

Boman said inviting spouses and significant others will also help the festivities from lurching out of control.

Employees who act up aren't the only problem - people who are drunk can crash their cars or fall down and hit their heads on the sidewalk. If an accident happens at or after the company party, the company owner can be liable; many states have laws that make the host of a party liable for injuries suffered in accidents due to intoxication.

Some companies have car services lined up to take employees home after a party - some will chauffeur those who clearly need help, while others will make sure that everyone gets home safely. Still others rely on designated drivers, or collect car keys from guests when they enter the party to ensure that no one drives if they've had too many drinks.

If the worst does happen, you can at least protect your company in advance by being certain there is adequate insurance coverage for everyone who might be liable. First, you should see if you already have your own liquor law liability insurance in your business insurance package; if not, buy it for the party.

An owner also needs to do some due diligence about the restaurant or club where the party will be held. Does the establishment have adequate insurance, including liquor law liability coverage for alcohol-related accidents? You also need to check, if the party is on your premises, or say, the local Elks hall, and is catered, does the caterer have similar coverage? Hunter noted that in some states, it's illegal for an unlicensed person to serve alcohol in a commercial establishment, so, if you hired a friend to tend bar in a setting other than your home or office, you could be breaking the law.

You also need to be sure you're not breaking the laws against underage drinking - your client's teenage son can't have a beer, and neither can the 18-year-old intern who worked for you last summer.

A last bit of advice: If there's an incident at the party, and you think your company might be liable, call your attorney right away. In the event of an accident, your insurance broker as well.

Posted by: mehitabel | December 7, 2007 11:11 AM

I tracked the dot-com bomb through office holiday parties.

Up until 2000, I worked for the Feds, so the parties were self-financed things where we took over a place for an afternoon, usually had a bad polka band and watched all the executives do the Chicken Dance. (I'm not kidding; some large number of executives had apparently spent time in Germany when they were previously in the military and felt that the closest approximation was this German-themed place, which for an extra fee would provide the aforementioned bad polka band. Hey, I spent time in Germany too, in fact I was born there, and this was a very bad imitation of Germany - bad food, bad music and worst of all bad beer. Or should that be "wurst of all"?)

Any rate - the dot-com bomb. I left the Feds and started working for the Toronto-based startup. Our 2000 party involved the company taking over an Embassy Suites in Toronto in mid-December for the weekend. The whole place. Non-Toronto employees and our spouses were flown up for the weekend and put up at company expense from Friday through Sunday; Toronto-based employees were given rooms Saturday night, which was when the big party was.

Now, it starts going downhill. The 2001 party was a quieter affair at a Ramada Inn; we rented a ballroom on a Saturday evening. Out of town employees were invited IF you could justify being in town for business either Friday or Monday; otherwise you were out of luck. Local employees could bring their spouses/significant others that night, but were cautioned to have a designated driver. There was an open bar from 7 - 9; after that it was a cash bar.

In 2002, there was no evening party; there was just a catered lunch in the Toronto offices. If you weren't there, you were authorized to spend $100 Canadian on a meal for you and whoever else you wanted to take, and the company would reimburse the expense. (At the time that was about $70 US, so it was a nice dinner for DW and me, but nothing too fancy.)

In 2003, everybody was given a Canadian 20 dollar bill and told "happy holidays".

I left after that, but from what I heard there were no parties after 2003.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 7, 2007 11:15 AM

Chasmosaur1 - ok, this is none of my business, but sheesh! You don't even work there! Does hubby know you are having to deal with this? I would have called him after the first complaint and said "you take over, I'm done".

Posted by: jjtwo | December 7, 2007 11:17 AM

I've never had a company Christmas party that I didn't have to pay for. One I was a contractor working for the government, which I understand. And at my new job, it is $25/head, plus a cash bar.
My job doesn't pay me a lot and there are not a lot of perks, so a free company party would have been nice. I won't be attending this one.

Posted by: ducky2 | December 7, 2007 11:21 AM

I enjoy lunching with my co-workers.

I've worked places with after hours parties and they're alright. I'm pretty far-flung from my employer's headquarters so I don't usually attend their corporate party.

If a person is a socialite type then maybe they're opportunities to mingle and advance, but mostly I talk with people I already know.

It is nice to meet co-worker's spouses.

Posted by: RedBird27 | December 7, 2007 11:32 AM

I can relate to ArmyBrat's timeline.

I didn't work in dot-com but I did go from a very nice sit-down dinner Christmas party at one of my early jobs (all but drinks paid for by employer) to an annual potluck at a hapless employee's home at my last job (no financial contribution from employer). This year, new job, new industry -- late afternoon party scheduled the week before Christmas. We'll see how they do. I can't stay long since I have to pick up kids but at least it's not potluck.

Posted by: anne.saunders | December 7, 2007 11:45 AM

My prior office was a large affair and the holiday party I thought was rather fun. Hotel ballroom, catered buffet (all you could eat!), DJ and dance floor, cash bar, spouses/SO's invited. I am single, always went stag and usually had a good time. There were quite a few people in my age range and one year I went to a friend's room (they got a room instead of a DD) and watched the football game with a few people instead of dancing. Still fun.

Now I am an office manager in an extremely small office (3 including me) so I assume I'm supposed to plan something but I have no idea what and no one has told me anything yet...

Posted by: palmettogrl | December 7, 2007 11:50 AM

To jjtwo -

Oh yeah, he knows. He feels horrible for me (and I feel horrible for him because for a few days, I was spitting venom I was in such a bad mood).

He told me to stop stressing and he was going to tell his boss that we were no longer planning it (he was helping corral responses at the office, so the "we" is justified there), but I didn't want to be THAT much of a b*tch. Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards men - holiday spirit and all that.

His boss wants me to "mentor" someone into being the party planner next year (I already told him I had it and this is my last year), but I put my foot down. I'm bringing straws to draw at the party. If they could dump it on us, we can and will dump it on a new couple.

I'd like to see with how much grace one of them handles it when all the carefully made and coordinated plans fall apart because one couple informs them that their niece's 3rd grade Christmas party is being held from 6:30 -7 pm the night that everyone else has open, and they *absolutely can't* miss that so we need to reschedule the whole party. (Not joking.)

Right now, the concept of breaking bread with all but one or two of these couples pretty much wants me to make sure I have a stiff Jack Daniels and Ginger Ale first.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 7, 2007 11:57 AM

I don't know about helpful to morale. It's nice to have a chance to celebrate with people you see more of than your own family, but I think attendance at these parties should be optional. Nothing is less fun than forced fun, so I think it's great to hold a party, but leave it up to the employees to decide if they want to attend or not.

The best holiday work parties in my career were in my last job. I worked for a large arts organization and the organization itself was totally dysfunctional and the work atmosphere was awful, but boy howdy, could we throw a party! It was always held at the end of a workday in the decorated lobby of the building with great food and drink (and oddly, I never saw anyone drink too much), but better were the people--lots of talented, creative people who genuinely liked each other and were so glad of the chance to cut loose from the normal drudgery of work. Those were great parties. Even though I've left that job, the "alumni" still get together once a year for a holiday party--anyone who is in town tries to make it and they are STILL great parties.

My current job has pretty tame parties. The organization is fabulous and I now can't imagine working anywhere else, but the parties are very buttoned up. We actually have three parties--one for the whole organization (that's the most dull--everyone pretends to have fun, but everyone is relieved when it's over), one for our area (a casual get-together the last day before our winter break; this one is more fun, I think because it's much more relaxed), and one for our smaller department. That one is a breakfast party at someone's house and we exchange secret Santa gifts. That one is also pretty nice--I like that it's at breakfast instead of in the afternoon or evening, and because it's the people we work with most closely, it's much more personal and fun.

I don't think I've ever had the pleasure of attending a true nightmare of a holiday party, but I'm enjoying some of the stories posted today!

Posted by: sarahfran | December 7, 2007 12:01 PM

Chasmosaur, I hate to be another one of those crying partygoers but one drinks JD with Coke, not Ginger Ale. Sheesh, can't you do anything right? :-)

(Steps back, awaiting thunderclap and Chasmosaur to trace me back through the communications wires to give me the beating I so thoroughly deserve for that. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 7, 2007 12:46 PM

Ha, that's what I miss about being in the WDC area...the Christmas parties.

One of the memorable work parties: I was working for a prominent WDC publisher, and the Christmas party was held at the O Street mansion. Open bar for three hours, but virtually no food (a small amount of appetizers, but all were meat-based, so I could not eat anything...I found some peanuts in one of the rooms.). Anyhow, take a bunch of publishing geeks, throw in some free-flowing booze, remove the food...well, you can get an idea where this went...

I work for a state agency, so like the other government workers, we have no employer-sponsored party. Those of us in management pick up the tab for a holiday lunch at a local restaurant for the staff and spouses.

Posted by: pepperjade | December 7, 2007 12:57 PM

Sorry ArmyBrat - Jack and Ginger is an excellent adult beverage.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | December 7, 2007 12:57 PM


to ArmyBray :p

I love my Jack and Ginger and you'll never get me to change. It's gotta be a nice dry Ginger Ale though (like Schweppes), since Jack is so sweet on its own. I feel like Coke is overkill. But to each his own...

Though given my druthers, I'd really just rather have a great mint julep and nurse it a while. Those are a wee bit hard to come by out here in Western Wisconsin. I started throwing a Kentucky Derby party this year, and made them with the superlative recipe I got from an old, Southern friend (and I'm sworn to secrecy on it).

No one out here knew what to make of them, though they throw cheap brandy into every other drink or can drink a 12-pack in 9 holes of golf with no visible effect...

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 7, 2007 1:12 PM

hmm - that would be ArmyBrat, rather.

Sorry - just got in from shoveling snow - it's a balmy 13 with a wind-chill of about 2 right now so my hands obviously haven't completely warmed up.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 7, 2007 1:13 PM

. . . though they throw cheap brandy into every other drink or can drink a 12-pack in 9 holes of golf with no visible effect...

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 7, 2007 01:12 PM

Chasmosaur, Is there a problem with either practice, LOL?

Posted by: mn.188 | December 7, 2007 1:14 PM

"...can drink a 12-pack in 9 holes of golf with no visible effect..."

Chasmosaur, I see a golden opportunity beckoning. If I were the gambling sort, I'd just stay sober wwhile golfing with them, and bet big, because I imagine their golf games are slightly impaired!

Posted by: mehitabel | December 7, 2007 1:36 PM

Our non-profit is having its party at the O Street Mansion again this year and it's fabulous. There is lots of good food, beer and wine (free), and a cash bar, and utterly decadent desserts. It's fun, attendance is voluntary, and everyone who goes seems genuinely to have a good time. I've never seen anything unfortunate or embarrassing happen, and I think the event is great. It isn't an event I dread, and those who don't like such things simply don't attend--with no adverse consequences.

Posted by: lsturt | December 7, 2007 1:40 PM

Ah, shoveling snow...that's one thing I DON'T miss about the metro WDC area. It's a balmy 69 degrees here right now....

Posted by: pepperjade | December 7, 2007 2:00 PM

"It's a balmy 69 degrees here right now...."

Cold front came through, huh? -:)

When I used to travel to Scottsdale on a regular basis, one of the things that always got me was that temperatures are relative. I was stunned to find that pools, waterparks, etc. are closed down in September (even on weekends). Why? Well, it's only 95 degrees; not warm enough for the pool.

(And the first person who says "yeah, but it's dry heat" gets a virtual whacking. I was in Phoenix when it was 121. Dry heat, sure, but so's an oven. Go sit in it for a while and tell me how comfortable it is.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 7, 2007 2:05 PM

ArmyBrat, you are on the money. Anything over 110 degrees does feel like you are walking around in an oven, dry heat or not. I still think I preferred the tropical heat of south Florida (where I grew up) to the dry heat of the desert. At lest in the tropics, you don't have to worry about your skin drying out. Plus, SoFla (Ft. Lauderdale-Miami) has some of the most beautiful beaches in mainland USA.

And yeah, I give up on the pool in October...unless the water is 80 degrees, I don't want to swim (that's on par with beach water in south Florida).

Posted by: pepperjade | December 7, 2007 2:11 PM

I suspect that everyone's ideas of good or bad holiday parties is based in large part on whether they see a large, fancy shindig as (a) dream come true, or (b) trip to hell.

I'm in the latter category. I actually like the people in my firm, and enjoy getting together with them, but the annual party in DC just leaves me cold. Dressing up, commuting to DC (yeah, it's against traffic -- but there is no real "against traffic" in DC at rush hour), hanging out with 150+ people, having to decide who gets stuck as the designated driver -- just not my thing. I always do enjoy myself when I get there, but I'm actually starting to dread the invitation. Even people I like get overwhelming when there are just too dang many of them.

I MUCH prefer our little party here in Baltimore. First, we do it in January, when you're less stressed about getting everything done, and can actually start really looking forward to an excuse for a party again. Second, it's at a local restaurant where my boss knows the owners; the food is great, and the owner always comes personally and makes us feel really special. It's a much smaller group, so you can really sit and talk, and spend some time getting to know the spouses, who you hardly ever see. And best of all, no commute to DC!!!

Posted by: laura33 | December 7, 2007 2:25 PM

Hmm - my last post got eaten.

Basically, nothing wrong with the drinking - it's just rather impressive. This quote from Lewis Black's "The White Album" (courtesy of WikiQuote) pretty much sums it up:

"I love Wisconsin. I love coming here. I perform here a lot, because I've discovered that you people apparently have some sort of federal grant for drinking. It's - you're insane! You pay less for liquor than anybody I know anywhere in the country. Nobody pays less for liquor than you! What'd you, wh- ho- HOW? I don't know if you're using that farm subsidy money, or if you're just hijacking liquor trucks, but this is f*****n' insane. (from the audience) 'It's volume, Lewis!' Is it volume? It's unbe-f****n'-lievable. It's staggering! I come here 'cause basically if I spend four days here drinking, even with the plane ticket it's cheaper than drinkin' in New York! How do you know when it's New Year's? That's the big mystery to me! What's the difference? I've been in bars here, and it's like New Year's every f**k night! Oh, New Year's, that's when w-w-we drink with hats on. I've been drunker here than anyplace else I've been in my life. And remember this: you are not, you are not alcoholics. You, and my hat is off, are professionals.

As for it being 69 and not missing shoveling snow...yeah, yeah, yeah. But we have no commute and no traffic (it's 5 miles to my husband's office from our house - if he hits the lights wrong it takes 10 minutes), all the basic amenities, and actual, affordable real estate prices and assessments. I'll take shoveling snow, even if it is amazingly cold...

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 7, 2007 2:25 PM

JustLurking's story about stringing lights at the boss' house wins the prize so far. Send it to The Office. Those writers are striking anyway so they need good material!

Posted by: leslie4 | December 7, 2007 2:45 PM

my small non-profit has fun parties. Last year, we went to Pentagon Row for lunch at an Irish pub and then ice-skating. Those who didn't feel like skating shopped or just went home--we had the rest of the afternoon off.

This year, we're going to lunch together in Clarendon and then we have the afternoon off to shop or do whatever.

Parties DURING WORK HOURS are absolutely the way to go. Heck, even without the free lunch, just having an afternoon off in the middle of December is priceless!

Posted by: newslinks1 | December 7, 2007 2:56 PM

to newslinks1 -

Oh god, that's just fabulous. I'd rather have the half-day in the middle of December with an excellent lunch somewhere than any office party.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 7, 2007 2:59 PM

Ditto on newslinks party. That is the best one.

Fred, any thoughts?

Posted by: leslie4 | December 7, 2007 3:01 PM

If you must do a party, please have it be a sit down affair of some sort. Be kind to your introverts.

Frankly, I'd prefer the money just go to bonuses or better health care.

Cham- I totally sympathize. I'm organizing all the events for our clients this year and we ended up having the movie screening on Sun at 11 am (not my choice, even my partner gave me grief about it).

So of course I'm making all the calls to people to get headcounts and I get this lecture from one of them saying "Don't I know it's Sunday morning? Don't I know people go to church then?"

I simply politely told her that not everyone can make every event and hopefully she can come to another one in the future.

I did NOT tell her that obviously she thinks church is important but doesn't have the good manners to RSVP in time so I'd have to call her directly and ask.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | December 7, 2007 3:25 PM

Chasmosaur1 - wow. sorry I haven't responded sooner, I've been sitting here speechless for a while now. Let me just say that I am hereby nominating you for the "good deed do-er of the decade" award. I hope your husband shows you how much he appreciates you :)

Posted by: jjtwo | December 7, 2007 3:25 PM

to jjtwo -

Oh lord, thanks but not necessary. It's just a holiday party. And I intend to give as I have received over the past couple of years, depending upon who has to plan next year (some couples have actually been super great, RSVP'd promptly and have been super accommodating).

And note - the niece thing was last year, not this year. And with the boss's backing, I told them if that was how they felt then they could do that but since they had already RSVP'd "yes" and it was the only other tenable date for the rest of the combined group, the party wasn't being moved. They skipped the niece's party - so much for absolutely not being able to miss it.

At any rate, I don't have kids or extended family, but I have my own business and I volunteer a lot. Many weekends just AREN'T going to work for me...I can see it now....

*grin* That disqualifies me from good-deed doer-of-the-decade I believe ;)

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 7, 2007 3:44 PM

My best holiday party: The very unpopular executive director of the organization had been terminated (contract not renewed, whatever), and her last day turned out to be the day of the holiday party. So we had a somber, dignified cake and punch event to bid her farewell, and the moment she walked out the door the senior staff broke out the booze and we celebrated long into the night.

Worst party: Six months pregnant, nothing served to drink but alcohol and caffeinated sodas, one tiny cheese and fruit display for more than 100 people, and no chairs. I lasted about 15 minutes at that one.

Posted by: swg2115 | December 7, 2007 3:45 PM

If you must do a party, please have it be a sit down affair of some sort. Be kind to your introverts.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | December 7, 2007 03:25 PM

As an introvert, I thank you for that :)

Posted by: anne.saunders | December 7, 2007 4:04 PM

Honestly I had an anxiety dream the other night that involved attending a work-related party and trying to look professional while holding one of those bitty cocktail plates with hors d'oevres and a sauce-covered weiner that rolled off the plate while I was conversing with one of my bosses. (Freudians among you have a blast).

Posted by: anne.saunders | December 7, 2007 4:09 PM

If you must do a party, please have it be a sit down affair of some sort. Be kind to your introverts.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | December 7, 2007 03:25 PM

As an introvert, I thank you for that :)

Posted by: anne.saunders | December 7, 2007 04:04 PM

Unfortunately, all of the introverts don't agree. I find sitdown affairs far, far more intimidating and ackward. What if I don't get a good seat? What if the people on either side of me don't talk to me? Is everyone noticing that noone is talking to me? Maybe no one likes me? Maybe I have no friends? Maybe I should go to the restroom and slip out? . . . . and on and on.

Which is the long way to say, some of us introverts just like to stand next to the bar, the buffet or the restroom and let the world come to us, LOL. You can't even please all the introverts all the time.

chasmosaur: Great routine about Wisconsin, btw:>)

Posted by: mn.188 | December 7, 2007 4:22 PM

I'm cracking up about the sit-down/mingle debate. Even as an extrovert, sit-down ones can get weird if you end up sitting with people you have nothing in common with. In some places I've worked there's also been weird jostling over who gets to/has to sit closer to the boss...ech.

Posted by: LizaBean | December 7, 2007 4:36 PM

to mn.188

Oh yeah, I love that bit. We drove cross country, dropped our bags off at our rental, and went to the local Super Target to get supplies since we knew where that was.

I walked down the beer aisle and turned around to see hard alcohol staring me in the face. A bit odd for a girl raised in Virginia. I remember I called my sister from the store - she lived in Pennsylvania at the time and was complaining about the insane alcohol purchase laws there. She was ready to kill me when I told her where I was standing and what I was looking at...

It took me a while to stop thinking I had to find the closest ABC Store when I needed to go find a liquor for cooking or to restock our bar after the move. My parents - who visit once or twice a year - still find it funny, too.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 7, 2007 4:47 PM

What if I don't get a good seat?

There's such a thing as a good seat?

What if the people on either side of me don't talk to me?

VS the entire room?

Is everyone noticing that noone is talking to me?

That's why you have FOOD! And you can always be listening to the people next to you, even if they have no idea you are listening.

Maybe no one likes me? Maybe I have no friends? Maybe I should go to the restroom and slip out? . . . . and on and on.

I figure if I have to go through the motions of acting like I want to socialize with these people and be having a good time, it might as well be providing food and force me to stand awkwardly.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | December 7, 2007 4:51 PM

I figure if I have to go through the motions of acting like I want to socialize with these people and be having a good time, it might as well be providing food and force me to stand awkwardly.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | December 7, 2007 04:51 PM

Okay, LOL, EmeraldEAD, okay. I am sufficiently introverted that I have no appetite until I settle into a spot with a couple of friends, or colleagues who won't dessert me. Keeping them laughing tends to work for the retention part. I can't keep them laughing if I'm eating. Different priorities. I am happy if the whole thing is not entirely miserable, if I don't look like I have "LOSER" with a capital "L" imprinted on my forehead, and if the red wine at the bar is drinkable. You have higher standards and expectations, LOL.

Hosts: You must provide sufficient seating for the attendees who want to sit, including the introverts, but please don't require EVERYONE to sit and, Lord knows, no assigned seating, e.g., no place cards requiring the different departments and groups to sit down and mix and mingle. Ugh.

Posted by: mn.188 | December 7, 2007 4:58 PM


As an introvert attending a sit-down holiday party this evening, I solved my problem with seatmates just a few minutes ago.

This is one instance where seat-savers can come in handy. I made a pact with two co-workers that the first one in would save seats for the others, and their spouses. I am at least guaranteed a fun group, which will make the whole ordeal less trying, LOL.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | December 7, 2007 5:06 PM

VegasMom, you trickster! We tried that last year with my firm's party but it didn't pan out as people arrived at such different times, and the firm is small enough, that it would have been too clearly rude...sigh. This year apparently we need to coordinate arrival times with our desired seatmates, LOL.

Posted by: LizaBean | December 7, 2007 5:10 PM

Well, this is a pretty big shindig LizaBean, so hopefully we'll get away with it, LOL. I believe the tables usually seat 10 and we're only 6, so it's not like we're shutting everyone out. And I work for a very large company, so I don't think anyone will notice. Of the three of us, one is planning to arrive just as things are getting started and he said he would do the saving. DH and I should be shortly on their heels. Couple #3 won't make it until dinner since they are juggling more than one social obligation. I'm really hoping this works because it sucks being stuck at a table full of strangers . . .

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | December 7, 2007 5:15 PM

LOL, I figured yours would be a lot bigger than ours! One of the most awkward meals I have had was when I worked for a foundation, the board of which was still primarily composed of members of the founding family. At one board retreat, I can down to breakfast and there was one table of people that was full, so I sat at a new table. And then a bunch of family board members came, and you could just tell that they didn't want to sit with me (I was low on the ladder and not someone they wanted to chit chat with, LOL), but it would have so rude not to that they did. It was a very, very long breakfast...I remember looking longingly at the table of my friends who had come in shortly after I was joined by the family.

Posted by: LizaBean | December 7, 2007 5:28 PM

I never went to my office holiday parties when I was working, since they were held at a church 45 minutes in the wrong direction from my house (and I was already commuting 40 minutes). But my favorite holiday party story was at my husband's work a few years ago, when one of the younger female employees starting giving everyone lap-dances. This was the same woman who, sometime later, streaked at her boss's baby shower (in front of her husband, no less).

Posted by: floof | December 7, 2007 6:59 PM

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