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Let them eat Christmas cake

by Ace Damon
Let them eat Christmas cake

Everyone feels like relaxing in December. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, the New Year is approaching and most people take a few days off. In many workplaces, this sense of "mission accomplished" is accompanied by an established tradition: the office party.

In boom times, these can be truly luxurious affairs. Robbie Williams sang at Deutsche Bank's global stock party in 2001, while a Bloomberg event in 2000, based on the seven deadly sins, would have cost £ 1 million (nearly $ 1.5 million). At "Googlympus" in 2006, the Internet group had tents named after different Greek gods, while employees had fun at the "wine cork shooting range".

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Today, few companies want the advertising that tends to accompany these events. The natural question is: If you are spending that amount on a portion, how much are you charging customers? In the "me too" era, there are also risks involved when workers lose their inhibitions after consuming too much alcohol. A survey of US companies by Challenger Gray & Christmas, a relocation company, found that 59% had discussed, or planned to discuss, the dangers of “celebrating inappropriately” with the team.

To avoid these dangers, the chief operating officer of BDO, an accounting firm, suggested that two companions attend the seasonal celebrations, along with first aid. Other accounting firms suggested holding daytime events rather than after-hours parties.

There is much to be said for daytime celebrations. First, it facilitates care for those who care for young children or elderly relatives and therefore has difficulty staying late. Second, people are likely to be somewhat more restricted to alcohol at lunchtime than at night. Third, celebrating during work hours seems like a genuine breach of duty; attending after work seems more of an obligation.

Most workers don't expect their seasonal event to turn into a bacchanal orgy; they just hope to avoid boredom. A survey of British office workers in 2014 found that only a quarter longed for their Christmas event and 71% would prefer a small cash bonus over their knees.

In Bartleby's experience, office parties are of three types. There's lunch, where someone is inevitably placed next to someone whose name you don't know, even though you've spent five years politely waving to them as you pass in the hallway. Two hours of social embarrassment followed. Then there is the nightly event with very loud music. On the plus side, no one can hear you speak, so it doesn't matter if you forget their names; On the downside, after half an hour, everyone over 30 gets so deaf that they want to be home with a nice book or a box from "The West Wing."

The third type of event is the stand-up with drinks and snacks when food is never enough to absorb alcohol and you are permanently in anguish over whether you are boring the person you are talking to more than they are boring you.

Of course, there is an economic answer and it is specialization. Think of Adam Smith's pin factory, where everyone plays their part; Let everyone have the party they want Me. Some may want to end prosecco, but others may be happier just to devour the cake.

The Economist's seasonal events are highly segregated. Lead writers sit quietly in a corner, drinking sherry and discussing structural reforms; Keynesians lend money to the rest of the staff to pay for their drinks; those who believe in central bank independence drink beer glasses in "quantitative drink" feats; neoclassical economists drink water, arguing that no rational person would consume alcohol, given the risks of hangover and liver damage; whereas those who support modern monetary theory drink vodka on the grounds that it is impossible to get drunk if you control your own alcohol supply.

In short, it's easier to have fun if you can do it your way. And that may include not partying. If managers think the team would rather spend time at home than attend, leave them; The company will save money. Last but not least, if managers need to make a speech, be brief. Something like "You all did very well this year, good luck next year." Save the Churchillian rhetoric for the annual general assembly.


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