Nothing else brings out the culture – or any other label you may care to use – of a company as the preparation, performance and post-event reminiscence of a holiday party. We will avoid assigning a name to the event – Halloween, Christmas, Diwali – to keep the context generic (if you are saying, “it is all the same” at this stage, I have already connected with you).
Typically, preparations for the party start a year ahead of time, just a day after the previous year’s party has ended. There are natural ‘leaders’ in any organization that effortlessly assume (usurp?) the role of organizer(s), edging out the meek and silent contenders. And this is perhaps one of the few areas of corporate sports where the senior executives are automatically eliminated, leaving the field open to the common man and woman.
Considerable time is spent on selecting a suitable venue. Many obviously unsuitable and exotic avenues are considered, deliberated upon and discarded, choosing one of the following reasons through random selection: too small, too large, expensive, too far from the office, too close, too noisy, too quiet, just-don’t-like-it. On the positive side, the organizers have managed to justify around four months worth of work hours.
Choosing a date is no less daunting. A day has to be selected after eliminating any kind of conflict with the school parties and game-days of various employees’ kids, standing weekly meetings of various cultural committees in the office, monthly birthday parties and several other important events. The trick is to get on to people’s calendars well ahead of their dentists’ offices.
About a month before the event day, things reach fever pitch. A variety of committees – food, transportation, decoration, sound system, games, evites and email reminders, coat hangers at the venue and so on – have been formed to accommodate (non)work for the swelling population of volunteers. Of course, regular office work has already come to a standstill. Bosses have stopped asking where their secretaries were.
After dodging multiple bullets in the form of a narrowly-missed tornado or storm, the evasive caterer failing to honor a carefully engineered menu and a eleventh hour cut in the company expense budget (successfully overcome by canceling a critical training program) the event is finally unstoppable. People arrive at the venue determined to have a good time. There is noticeable disappointment when it becomes clear that there is no alcohol – thanks to an overnight decision by the HR manager. The chief organizer tries her best to divert people’s attention to games such as match-the-baby-photos-to-your-current-bosses and name-all-the-conference-meeting-rooms-in-the-office. People are busy talking about their kids’ school and their visiting in-laws. The few bosses who do manage to come in are busy with shop talk.
The party comes to its inevitable end at the appointed hour, leaving the organizers to start their planning for …… you know what.