An oxymoron called ‘office party’


Employers throw get-togethers with ulterior motives: to inject corporate loyalty in the average employee, inculcate team spirit, to dispel allegations of meanness, to celebrate bottom lines or awards. Anything but for you to have a good time.

The minute a party is mentioned, office politics follow. First and foremost some ferret-faced fawning type will immerse heart and soul into the planning aspect, to score points. In fact, all workplace revelries can be traced back to this eager-eyed, bushy-tailed busybody. If nothing else, he/she will memorize the boss’s birthday, arrange for the cake and sing ‘happy birthday’ at the top of his/her voice. But at the same boss’s funeral not a peep from the toady.

The partying is not always in the grim everyday interiors you work in. The festivities are shifted to hotels, weekend resorts, abroad, hill stations, discos. Since relaxation is the order of the day, individual attitudes to stress-busters come into play. Hierarchies are barely maintained as all mix and mingle. Still, since sucking up is part of the Indian psyche sycophancy is broken down into loud untimely laughs at the slightest effort at wit by senior staff.

Personal and professional lines are burred as everyone lets their hair down. In this suddenly freewheeling atmosphere, co-workers see each other in informal clothes, in informal surroundings. Office Romeos make their move, young girls from conservative homes try to out-drink each other and the previously shy types end up flashing.

You can never get enough of hanging out with colleagues outside of work, you think, as you make your way to office-sponsored festivities. But the dim lights, the bonhomie and proximity to the bar, the fact that you suddenly feel that your firm cares about you, can blind you to the presence of, ahem, spies. The mini Naradas in your midst. Who will memorize all your discontent and encapsulate all your communication with head-hunters.

Hard drinks and loose talk go hand in hand. Though it is true that such occasions provide future gossip – keeping that particular office in small talk for years – one has to pay good money to scrub scandals off the internet.

And God forbid if you start to feel like the life of the party. Apart from the damage co-workers with good hearing can do to you at a time you are not watching what you say, you can also attempt some kind of career suicide on your own. With your guard down, you might just feel that the stuff that was inside your head is better off outside of it. So there you are telling your boss exactly what you think of his decision to promote XYZ over you.

The sight of someone you worshipped at work bent over in the washroom passionately vomiting will wreak havoc with your concentration at next day’s meeting. The office vamp, meanwhile, will sashay to the stereo and turn up the volume before making an impromptu dance floor of the premises. Then things turn comic. The sedate, the sober, the slightly supercilious make an exit. In the ensuing mayhem, at least one pair of hands will grope, followed by a shriek, a slap and sometimes a lawsuit.

Better take your identity card to the bash. When in doubt – about what to say, when and to whom – peep down at that petrified portrait of you hanging on your chest. ‘Office party’ is an oxymoron. Office party is no party, it is work. Workplaces have etiquette that cannot be abandoned just because there are snacks and colorful paper cups about. It is just that your boss wants to play Santa. Nothing personal.


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