Mistletoe and whine (How to organise a Xmas Party)

I’ve tried my best to guide through the year; taught you how to behave on public transport, let you know what not to do in the pub and even given you a bit of advice on how to pedal. But now we’re coming to that time of year when madness sets in, where everybody thinks all rules are off; Christmas.

Let me assure you that the rules are very much in place at this time of year, even more so than usual and it’s every reader’s duty to ensure that they are enforced.

It may appear to be against the rules for me to be discussing Christmas in November and strictly speaking it is but there are important matters to address, not least the Christmas Party.

Organising the bloody thing

In theory it shouldn’t be difficult, you just need a date, location and a price. In practice it would be easier to negotiate world peace.

If you haven’t organised it yet, you’ve probably left it too late but there are a lot of pitfalls to watch out for if you are ever unfortunate enough to be given the role.

The simple rule is that the organiser decides where and when to go. If you can’t be arsed to organise it then you don’t get a choice, and more importantly, you don’t get the opportunity to complain. Step up or shut up.

The caveat to that is that everyone has to be happy with the organiser; a self appointed ‘social secretary’ or the office ‘zany’ are not to be allowed anywhere near it. You’ll find that the zany character features quite heavily in my Christmas blogs and it’s fair to say that they are not top of my Christmas card list.

In my last job we were lucky enough to have an organiser who came up with the goods year after year to the point where we had to do little other than turn up, eat food and get drunk. It’s a rare gift she has, if you have one like her, never let them leave.

If you spend any time organising a party you will realise that friends and colleagues that you previously considered quite sensible are actually stupid, very, very stupid. The simplest question will be met with the sort of irrelevant, incoherent nonsense usually only displayed by Garth Crooks. They will employ question avoidance techniques not seen since Michael Howard was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman. Some, despite being nowhere to be seen when an organiser was being sought, will start asking their own, irrelevant questions and confusing everyone.

Keep it simple. Ask questions in plain English, ideally closed questions with only two options. Set a strict deadline for responses and payment. Spell out from the start what will happen if those deadlines are not met.

If you are asked a question by the organiser, answer the question and only that question. Nobody cares when your dog’s birthday is or that your child is playing fourteenth sheep in the Nativity. Nobody needs to know that you spend the first weekend in December atop the Christmas tree pretending to be a fairy, just answer the bloody question.

You can’t please everyone and someone is always going to miss out. Try and choose a date that will get maximum attendance but if you have to shed a few zanies along the way, so be it. (My lawyers have advised me to note that Lisa, who will not be attending our party this year, will very much be missed and does not fall into the zany category.)

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Location wise you need somewhere that does food, drink and possibly entertainment of some description. This does not, and never will, mean Wetherspoons or Yates. If you consider them as an option, even for a moment, give up and join a religion that does not celebrate Christmas. Ebeneezer Scrooge will be telling everyone that you are tighter than a gnat’s chuff. They do not ‘do a good Christmas Dinner’ and whilst the drink may be cheap, it is also cheap in B&M Bargains but you wouldn’t be holding your party in the Fosters aisle. Show some self respect.

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Those closest to me will know that I am deeply scarred by a Xmas Party I had to attend an The Wessington, a Brewsters Pub. If you think a pub aimed at children and located on a retail park is the ideal place for Christmas festivities then you have lost your festive marbles. Don’t ever suggest it. I shall say no more on the subject, the wounds are still raw fifteen years later.

Transport is always an issue. Try and choose somewhere convenient or hire a bus, or a limo but there are limitations. If someone chooses to live in the wilds of Borneo, it’s not upon to the party organiser to get them home.

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In theory, you should be dealing with adults who just need to be told where to be and when. For some, this is beyond their limitations and will almost expect a piggy back to the venue. I am still considered harsh for suggesting a limo left on time rather than wait an extra ten minutes for someone who is habitually late. We were paying by the hour, why should we lose out when they aren’t showing any consideration for us? If I’d had my way we’d have driven past her house flicking the V’s to show her what she had missed out on.

Some people are lucky enough to work in organisations where everything is paid for (but still manage to complain) and others have to finance it themselves. Try and choose something that is accessible to most but don’t aim for the cheapest just so the office tightwad can come. Nobody wants to spend their Christmas Party in a soup kitchen.

Dress codes are a tricky subject. I do think people should make an effort for the Xmas Party but for some, getting out the Next shirt they bought in 1992 is dressing up. Studies show that the amount of hours that have been wasted discussing what ‘smart casual’ means or what constitutes ‘smart jeans’ could have run a small country like Luxembourg for approximately two years. If you are unsure if you are smart enough, chances are that you aren’t.

One of the great pleasures of the work Christmas do is seeing people dress up in outfits few would have thought possible. Former colleagues will recall my joy at seeing someone arrive in the office wearing a pair of purple strides that Prince would have turned his nose up at in his purplest of purple periods. A vague ‘Dress to impress’ on the invites is always worthwhile.

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There is a line and that line is fancy dress. If you want to dress in fancy dress, I may not approve but that is up to you. To try and enforce a ‘theme’ is against people’s fundamental human rights and anybody who tries to enforce it falls strictly into the ‘zany’ category.

One final rule about a work’s Christmas party has a clue in its name. It is a ‘work’ Christmas Party which should only be open to people you work with. Not your husband, wife, mate, pet or blow up doll. If your partner doesn’t trust you to go out for a night without them then you have issues that you need to stop in and resolve. If you can’t enjoy yourself without your partner, chances are that nobody would want to talk to you or your partner anyway so don’t ruin Christmas for them and just stay at home.

Now that we’re sorted, know where we are going and when, my next blog will be how to behave once you actually get there.


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