’Tis the season to bond with co-workers at office parties. However, many co-workers only know each other superficially. Quite a few don’t meet outside work. Therefore being forced into socializing during holiday office parties can be uncomfortable.
“Office parties are a type of public ritual designed to permit the organizational community to come together around a common purpose connected to the larger culture within which the organization is embedded,” explains Janie M. Harden Fritz, co-author of Problematic Relationships In The Workplace.
According to Fritz, the reason most of us don’t socialize all year round is because some companies believe it takes the focus and attention off work.
“Anything that jeopardizes productivity is not helpful,” she says.
So why have them? Office holiday parties benefit the company by valuing traditions held by the society or community which their employees may share, according to Fritz. Also most are after office hours.
Office parties however are still office events. There are still rules of conduct that are not clearly stated. Generally one is expected to mingle and talk about life outside of work.
“Move the conversation in another direction if topics introduced make you uncomfortable, for example questions that are too personal or might be controversial; gossip; negative comments about the company; excessive work talk when spouses/partners are attending who do not know the ‘in-group language’ of the company,” says Fritz.
Keeping conversations light and asking about how your co-worker intends to spend their holiday may be a good ice breaker.
“Avoid persons with tales to tell about others,” suggests Fritz. “Politely excuse yourself and move in another direction.”
She also suggests avoiding the drunken colleague; “Take refuge with persons who are conducting themselves with public decorum.”
Office holiday parties can be an enjoyable event, but it is still a work event and while we can enjoy ourselves, we have to remember these are the people we will be working with everyday.