The 5 Stages of the Company Holiday Party

This time of the year the media is always full of useless articles with suggestions for avoiding embarrassment at your company’s annual holiday party. Ironically, these articles provide the same advice that my Mother attempted to pawn off on me in high school: “Just nurse one beer throughout the entire evening.” This makes a lot of sense – unless you’re the person that wants more than one drink.

(Please note for the record that I work for a highly professional organization that celebrates the holidays soberly and sedately in the traditional fashion – with a retelling of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and a trip to the Nutcracker. You can file this essay under the heading of “fact or fiction?”)

So while I cheerfully advocate having a good time at your party, it’s also important to keep track of “The 5 Stages of the Company Party” to make sure that you don’t commit any professional faux pas:

Stage 1: Anticipation

Starting right after Thanksgiving and culminating with the pre-party drinking at the office, the Anticipation stage is a wonderful time of reminiscing about parties past and dreaming of future glories. If you do karaoke, it’s also a great time to talk about past performances and to think about this year’s potential song selections. While generally a wonderful time, the anticipation stage can be rough for those who have embarrassed themselves in the past.

Stage 2: Love

After the drinks start flowing, the combination of holiday spirit and alcohol usually produces an outpouring of love and affection. Awkward hugs, proclamations of eternal loyalty and even a few stray tears are the tell-tale sign that you’re knee-deep in the love stage. Yes, it’s a beautiful and natural expression of human emotion, but you may live to regret it if you get too swept away in the moment.

Stage 3: Aggression

At this point, we’ve reached the half-way point of the evening. Love has been displaced by aggression. People are starting to get drunk and old resentments are surfacing. An accidental bump or spilt drink can turn ugly. I don’t like this stage and I don’t understand this stage, but alcohol clearly activates some prehistoric gene in the Y chromosome that makes men crazy and violent. Smart money says to avoid this stage in the bathroom, at the bar or out with the smokers on the sidewalk.

Stage 4: Sloppy

The early-birds have left. The floor is wet. People who shouldn’t be drinking anymore start doing shots. Inappropriate coupling is taking place. Glasses are breaking. People are falling on the dance floor. It’s sloppy time! This is my favorite time of the party because this is when the memories are made – but it’s not for the faint-of-heart. When a party turns sloppy you’ve either got to go home or buckle up and go for a ride.

Stage 5: Remorse

Sometimes it hits you during the cab ride home. Sometimes it hits you when you’re getting sick in the alley. Sometimes it hits you the next morning when you wake up. Or worst of all, sometimes it hits you when you walk in the office and are reminded of the horrible thing that you forgot about the next day. It’s fairly certain that if you didn’t leave before things got sloppy, you’ll probably regret something (or someone) the next day. Don’t worry, though, plenty of companies start hiring again after New Years!

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