Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Lovely Office Christmas Parties

Yep, it's that time of year again... Branch holiday gathering at a bowling alley, Division holiday breakfast, agency holiday festival, not to mention several invitations from family and friends for various gatherings... yuggghhhh. (I don't know what "yuggghhhh" really means, but it sounds descriptive of how I feel about these things.)

Will I be going to the work-related events?

Yep; have to. My absence would be conspicuously noticed. Do I want to go? Not really. So what do I do? Suck it up and go. Here are my adaptations on the yuppie/guppie* recommendations for attending work-related holiday events.

1. Dress like I dress for work--comfortable slacks or khakis, collared dress shirt, no tie, no sport coat. For after-work events, then I will wear comfy leather jeans and a denim shirt. No sweater. I don't wear sweaters because they make me look 10x larger than I really am. What's on my feet? Good-looking cowboy boots, of course. Nothing less.

2. Take a couple Excedrin because that helps me endure the discomfort with the requisite hour or two of standing. Even if chairs are available, if most people are standing and speaking with one another, I stand too.

3. Show up on time. This is an office party, not a casual "show up whenever" event. Co-workers and the bosses notice if you are late to work events.

4. Smile, and greet people warmly. I try to meet people who I do not know. While it is easier to hang out with people in my immediate work group, and who I like, it it strategically better to circulate and meet other people who I do not know, or know as well. I never know if having a casual chit-chat conversation may lead to something better for me in the future. I'm told that I have a nice smile, so I use it. (It is not a fake "I am soooo happy-to-be-here" kinda smile, either.)

5. Keep the conversation to non-controversial topics. The weather, local happenings, concern about a common acquaintance, activities we enjoy in common, and so forth. I don't talk about sports because I do not have a clue, and I do not want to come across as a complete ignoramus. I do not talk about religion or politics, either. No one will agree on anything about either subject, so I avoid those topics at all costs.

6. Eat if food is provided, but in moderation. Don't be first in the buffet line, don't be last. Don't pile the plate high as if you haven't eaten in a week. With my desire to maintain (or not gain) weight, I avoid the sweets as best I can, as well. I also politely but firmly decline offers of alcohol. It is easier these days to say, "thanks, but I don't drink alcohol. I'll be happy with water or juice."

7. For the bowling event, dodge requests to join a group to bowl. I don't bowl, and would be embarrassed to display my complete ineptitude. I don't even know how to keep score. I'll say, "I am happy to be your cheerleader, but I don't bowl." If pressed, I may make a polite excuse about a recent back strain that makes it painful for me to try to lift a heavy ball and throw it down a bowling lane. I will not say, but clearly feel, that wearing bowling shoes is against my personal principles and I wouldn't "go there." (Seriously, dorky-looking bowling shoes? Really? No way!)

8. Leave as early as I can exit, graciously. That is, not first, but certainly not last. Most people understand when you say that you have things you have to do, or in my case for evening events, be home by my 9pm self-curfew. I do not invent stories (which if checked can catch you in a lie). I just say as tactfully as I can that it's time for me to go, then I leave.

These events are supposed to be happy, pleasant times with colleagues -- not a drudge, though many (including myself) can feel that way about them. Make the best of it. It's sorta like, "do what you gotta do" and most people appreciate the effort.

Oh, and the next day... visit with the organizers of the event and thank them for the time and effort that they put into making the event happen. Thank the bosses or anyone who paid for the food and drink. Then follow-up with a brief email to the organizers, too. The time you take to thank people is noticed because that seldom happens.

Life is short: do what you gotta do!

* N.B.: "Yuppie" -- derived from Young Upcoming Professional, or YUP. Derogatory 80s term to describe a 'new breed' of young, wealthy people, typically successful in business and not afraid to flaunt it in a fashion which particularly irritates non-yuppies (like the author of this blog).

"Guppie" -- a gay yuppie. "I live in a nice, big apartment, do what I want to do, have a great job, travel, eat out when I feel like it, no kids. High disposable income. and my mom LOVES my boyfriend."

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