As the holiday season approaches, so does the office party tradition. Having been tasked with arranging a reunion of former colleagues from a former office for the past seven years, I have found myself in a position to learn a lot not only about surviving the annual holiday office party, but throwing one as well. I would highly recommend to anyone to vigorously pursue this responsibility if possible for not only does it allow for ample networking potential should you find yourself suddenly unemployed, it also does wonders for your personal job security. If you know how to throw a good party, management generally wants to keep you around at least until next year’s fiesta and, if done right, you can usually get enough dirt on them to keep you at work long after that. Never underestimate the power of a dirty little secret.
So, as a gift to the stalwart readers of The JEP Report, what follows is a little guide to throwing, surviving and thriving amidst the annual holiday office party. Call them the three carnal rules of throwing a killer holiday blow-out.
Rule Number 1 – Choose the participants wisely.
Just becomes somebody works with you does not mean they should automatically be entitled to party with you. Still, as it is a corporate event, there are serious consequences to not inviting them as well. You need to find a way to make them feel like they are welcome there, yet make the party sound so base and debauched that they will feel they are much better off spending their Friday night watching The Best of The 700 Club than wallowing in the mire of alcoholic excess and sexual tension that is sure to have infected the company’s annual soiree.
Choosing your fellow revelers is by far the most critical ingredient of a successful holiday bacchanalia. The people you need there are your office lushes, two reliable wingmen, the chick magnet, a gaggle of coed interns from the steno pool, at least three younger attorneys or someone in another profession that regularly deals with law enforcement officials without wearing handcuffs, a nerd that can’t handle his booze and at least one creepy quiet guy that could spectacularly explode at any moment. The kind of people you DON’T want there are anyone that has recently given a sexual harassment lecture, the human resources director (unless she’s hot), anyone who has a director reporting to them, any old men with precarious bladder control and any woman whose husband has connections to the mafia or looks like she gets pregnant easily.
Weeding out your pool may sound like a daunting task but can be accomplished by a good invitation.
Rule Number 2 – Set the tone of the party by creating the perfect invitation.
The invitation sets the tone of any good celebration. As the best celebrations are informal events and conducted unofficially, these events require little more than an e-mail. The first step is to immediately absolve revelers of any wrongdoing by reminding them that they were chosen to attend this party for their entertainingly low moral standards so their reputations would not be tarnished by letting loose at the event you are coordinating. I once used the following verse to set this precedent:
“The 2nd Annual Unofficial Holiday Company Bash will commence promptly at 5pm, December 2nd at The Baccian Lair on Main Street in Royal Oak. Now, I realize that many of you may be hesitant to loose yourselves with such wild abandon so close to the Christmas holiday, but I assure you that I have spoken to Jolly Ole St. Nick (we were playing strip Twister at the Tooth Fairy’s house last Wednesday) and after the events that transpired at last year’s party, not a single one of you will be getting anything from him anyway. Except for Ned Beaverton in accounting, who will be getting something “extra special” in his Christmas stocking this year. Note to Ned: You may want to leave a couple of rolls of toilet paper out instead of milk and cookies this year unless you want to fork out a couple of hundred bucks to get your curtains dry-cleaned.”
Next, you must lay down the rules of the excursion. These should be tailored to attract those with tragically few moral inhibitions and repel those who may prove to be moderating influences. They should also be disguised as “tips” or dictates from someone other than yourself (you don’t want to be seen as the party’s quasi-disciplinarian or worse, the person in charge of the event. The person in charge is usually forced to take responsibility for what happens and trust me, you want absolutely no part of that). You may want to try statements such as:
“Due to the incredibly inappropriate, albeit thoroughly entertaining, behavior of Ned Beaverton last year no bar tricks involving small furry animals at the The Baccian Lair at the request of the establishment’s management. Their request however, said nothing about LARGE furry animals and Ned is presently scouring the streets of New York in search of an elusive Snafulophogus for your evening’s enjoyment. I must add though that you should not get your hopes up. Ned’s been there a week and still has not managed to locate exactly where in Brooklyn Sesame Street, the avenue where this creature allegedly lives, can be found. We’re beginning to think it must be over the Hudson somewhere in Jersey City.”
“The Baccian Lair also has informed me that because of a series of unfortunate events last Christmas, they will no longer be supplying us with sharp knives with our dinner. Luckily, there was nothing in the wording of their request that suggested that blunt objects were to be prohibited as well, still leaving us with a means to keep the wait staff from getting lippy.”
Another important part of the invitation is to remind your guests that everyone is expected to adhere to proper drinking etiquette. Drinking etiquette is what separates us from savages (and for that matter, the Russians). It is especially important when dealing with those absolutely critical to the success of your party, like the bartender:
“The bartender is your friend, at least until the pagan scallywag tries to cut you off. The bartender should always be treated like royalty and tipped generously as long as he keeps the tequila flowing, but once he threatens to withhold the happy juice, physical retribution and coercion is not only acceptable, but expected. I can't remember where I heard this (it may have been the subject of a Martha Stewart segment on the Food Channel), but I believe the proper etiquette for dealing with a flippant bartender is to Taser his sorry posterior every fifteen seconds until incontinence has been induced. Once that takes place, you Taser him every five seconds until the gin jockey tosses you another Margarita. If a Taser is unavailable, mace or pepper spray can be used as a respectable substitute.”
Finally, the invitation is a means to instill confidence in your venue. Make your guests familiar with the place they hopefully be spend six or seven of their darkest holiday hours in:
“The Bacchian Lair has is a two storied drinking establishment. The first floor is 65 feet long and fifty feet wide with two exits. On this floor is a kitchen with two utility sinks and a wet bar with three glass washing stations. The men’s room is equipped with four stalls, two urinals and four sinks. The women’s room has six stalls and five sinks. The second floor is 50 feet long and 40 feet wide. It has another bar with two glass washing stations, a men’s room with two urinals, one stall and two sinks, a women’s room with three stalls and three sinks and one exit. Overall, The Bacchian Lair is legally allowed to serve 498 people at once.
“So, with over 5000 feet of floor space, three exits, 39 plumbing fixtures and almost 500 people to get violently sick all over, The Bacchian Lair’s management requests that this year, we leave the fucking aquarium alone.”
Rule Number 3 – Once the party gets going, leave the damn thing alone.
Once things get going, leave it alone. Nothing kills a good celebration like interference, and nothing is more reviled than the person who killed the damn thing. If the new intern wants to de-pants the engineering manager, let him. What do you care? If steno-pool Mildred wants to take on a couple of Jamaican bus boys in full view of her husband and co-workers, let her. Just make sure you have a camera and internet access handy. They may face repercussions for their actions but as the organizer, and hence the conductor, of the mayhem, you will reap the benefits. All you have to do is set the wheels in motion, sit back and enjoy the ride.