The evo­lu­tion of of­fice christ­mas Par­ties!

The HR Digest - - Cover Story -

The out­landish, drunken of­fice Christ­mas party used to be a sta­ple of pop­u­lar cul­ture, namely tele­vi­sion, books, and movies. Now it has dropped out of the imag­i­na­tion; the only ex­am­ple I can think of re­cently is Of­fice Christ­mas Party, a goofily ridicu­lous com­edy from 2016 star­ring Jen­nifer An­nis­ton and TJ Miller. Are of­fice hol­i­day par­ties a thing of the past? Or have we sim­ply stopped notic­ing?

Dur­ing the 1950s, hol­i­day of­fice par­ties were a mixer sat­u­rated with al­co­hol and gush­ing with twelve months of pent-up frus­tra­tions at co­work­ers and bosses. Thanks to Mad Men, and its damn­ing por­trayal of of­fice Christ­mas par­ties, we know the mixer was syn­ony­mous with reck­less be­hav­ior: gin in the wa­ter cool­ers, clothes

strewn around the com­pany halls, and peo­ple grap­pling with grow­ing feel­ings of seclu­sion. It was the time when hol­i­day par­ties played a sig­nif­i­cant role in climb­ing the cor­po­rate lad­der. Ca­reer coun­selors ad­vised am­bi­tious men and women that skip­ping a hol­i­day mixer was like end­ing your ca­reer: A boss spends thou­sands of dol­lars on food and booze and you don’t show? You might as well moon him on a Mon­day morn­ing in the of­fice!

By now, work­ers were get­ting tired of the sea­sonal obli­ga­tions; at work, schools and fam­ily. Many wished they would have sim­ply taken a day off rather than at­tend an ob­li­gated ‘off’ day at work. Dur­ing the 1970s and 1980s, hol­i­day of­fice par­ties had be­come a slow, un­hur­ried af­fair. There were ex­cep­tions, of course – drugs and or­gies be­came a com­mon thing. By the 90s, com­pa­nies were now fear­ful of ex­pos­ing them­selves to hounds of reg­u­la­tors amidst the cash-strapped econ­omy. The tra­di­tional of­fice mixer had be­come out­dated and im­ma­ture.

As far as cor­po­rate logic goes, of­fice Christ­mas par­ties are to foster and strengthen work­ing re­la­tion­ships. Turns out, it’s far from its in­tended pur­pose. As per a 2007 Columbia Uni­ver­sity study, most em­ploy­ees stick to their ex­ist­ing pool of of­fice friends dur­ing a mixer. A com­pany func­tion can rarely leave a last­ing im­pact on of­fice dy­nam­ics.

Today’s of­fice Christ­mas par­ties aren’t

per­ceived by sin­gles as an ex­cuse to flirt, or get phys­i­cal with peo­ple from other de­part­ments. Pho­to­copy­ing bare bot­toms is about as sala­cious as par­ties get. Of course, you’ll still find a nude Santa gy­rat­ing on a ta­ble, and more, but it’s not like peo­ple are high on LSD and sled­ding down stair­ways. The event is a bit more than a stodgy, mid­day, cor­po­rate af­fair, where non-al­co­holic mi­mosas are in­cluded. They’re kitschy and cute and some­times, a lit­tle glam­orous. The ubiq­uity of Ugly Christ­mas Sweaters has led to an uptick of Ugly Christ­mas Sweater Par­ties at work. The event has be­come on par with Black Fri­day or cel­e­brat­ing Hal­loween at work. Th­ese tacky gar­ments are now be­ing ap­pro­pri­ated from their per­pet­ual spot in the wardrobe to be­com­ing the go-to gar­ment for Of­fice Christ­mas par­ties.

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