Now that our former Eternal Intern Scott has a proper job, he has even more wisdom to share about office life....
Regardless of whether you are an intern or you are on your first graduate job, the prospect of a work Christmas party sounds pretty exciting.
Free afternoon off.
Free or heavily discounted food.
FREE UNLIMITED ALCOHOL.
However, when you ask your colleague about how excited they are by it, how much drink they are planning on stealing in a shopping trolley, what fragrance they think a certain Paul or Susan (*delete according to your sexuality) is wearing today in another department as you subtly sniffed his/her neck as you passed in the hallway earlier but you don’t think they noticed and you hope that one day you, ideally during the Christmas party, will confess your love for each other as well as get married move to some glorious village in the Cotswolds or have sex loads and loads and loads and loads and loads and loads of times… you just get a muted or a dry response.
“The Christmas Party? Oh. That.”
“Oh yeah the party thing. I dunno”, says one colleague who has never looked you in the eye.
“Don’t ask me I’m just an imaginary person used as a contextual joke within an article.”
There are three different reasons why people are underwhelmed by the whole Christmas party shin-diggery, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good time. Here’s how to get around the tricky spots:
Secret Santa: By now you will have exchanged names for the ‘hilarious’ Secret Santa draw, which involves being given a name for a colleague you’ve never met to get a prezzy for and a budget so low you can’t actually get anything for them. You do what any logical person in this situation would do: panic. You assume that your entire relationship with this person rests upon you getting them a wacky gift. As well as this, you assume that someone is going to get you the most suitable present of all time, making your present choice for the other colleague all the more important.
What you’ll soon realise though, is that actually, they are panicking just as much as you are and the gifts that you and some other colleagues will receive will make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Take the Secret Santa that I received a couple of years ago. I am an individual who used to embarrassingly collect TY toys as a teenager. I also would admit these days to being a fan of One Direction if the person asking me isn’t likely to hit me in the face afterwards. And yet I received, for some reason that I still cannot work out to this day, some salt and pepper shakers shaped like skulls. When you pressed the top of the salt or pepper, the skull's eyes lit up bright red. A good gift to buy, for example, a goth with a liking for well-seasoned food.
So what do you get your colleague? The only solution: buy the most general thing you can think of that they will forget about within minutes of receiving aka anything that isn’t tinned tomatoes or a pint of milk. Always works.
Finding things to talk about: What is the one thing that unites people together within a workplace? Is it that you all share the company's values and appreciate what it is striving for? Is it the desire to seek as much profit as possible to appease shareholders? Nope. Don’t be silly. You’re all there for M-O-N-E-Y (or, if you are an intern, the hope that one day you will actually get M-O-N-E-Y). This naturally means that company parties can be genuinely hard, because there are only so many things that you actually have in common. So what can you do?
Rule one: go for catch-all topics. Don’t go for something that’ll end up in a totally awful corner like chatting about immigration or the economy, because the laws of God will mean that you’ll be cornered by a hardliner for about six hours and everyone will hate both of you. Basically if it all goes a little bit quiet bring up topics that you would find somewhere between Newsnight and The One Show. Rule two: if you’re the newbie, don’t bitch about other colleagues. If other people are bitching about other colleagues at the party, nod and agree… but otherwise stay schtum. And rule three: talking about anything is much better than talking about anything work-related. So, for the life of you, if you end up splitting up from the main lot and find yourself dancing near the cloakroom of the nearest Pitcher & Piano, don’t think that this is a perfect time to bring up what others thought about the minutes at the last departmental meeting, or “isn’t it a real bother when you have to use a common stapler when stapling through many pieces of paper at the same time?”
The politics of getting with ‘the one’: If you’re thinking that this is your opportunity to get with the one that you’ve had your eye on for the last six days / weeks / months / years / lifetimes, remember this is not like a friend’s party. At a friend’s party it is highly likely that you would not see the person that you fancy again afterwards, or for a time, and if you do get with them it’ll be in the cupboards in someone’s flat, or somewhere in the corner of a nightclub where nobody will see and judge you. If you make out with someone during a work do, everyone will see, everyone will tell everyone else, everyone will probably take photos and shout the words “GET IN MY SON” three weeks later at a Corporate Event.
So I recommend leaving that crush for another date. Or just jump in and snog them after everyone has left in the kebab shop at 4am after a plate of cheesy chips.