The party season is here. But what if making merry at the work’s Christmas bash is your idea of hell?
If you work in the creative industry, you’ll be familiar with Thursday beer and pizza night. And Friday drinks. And possibly the quarterly experience days that could see you abseiling down a cliff or enjoying a spa treatment (or both). It’s not just the creative industry. We know large law firms, recruitment companies and insurers who adopt similar approaches. Sometimes they’re done as pure rewards; sometimes they’re coated in the veneer of ‘team building’. But really they’re about beer and pizza.
You may be ever present at such events and love them all. Alternatively, you may dread the idea of ‘enforced fun’. Now, as Christmas party season hits full swing, you’re faced with the team bash, the works ‘do’ and perhaps even a client party or two. So what do you do if you don’t want to go and how should employers react to workers who seem to lack a little Christmas spirit?
Fired for not bringing the fun
The issue was highlighted recently by a case in France where, as reported in Insider, a worker was fired from their Paris consultancy firm “for refusing to participate in after-work drinks and team-building activities”.
The organisation in question made much of its fun values and organised regular obligatory social events which the claimant chose not to attend. A French court has ruled that companies can’t fire their workers for failing to be sufficiently ‘fun’.
In the UK too, there are many companies for whom diving headfirst into a party culture feels almost obligatory, but there is no legal right for your employer to demand your presence at a Christmas party you don’t want to go to. Even so, that may not prevent you from feeling awkward about refusing. Nor may it prevent you from worrying that it may in some way reflect badly if you don’t turn up.
Not feeling it
This year, there are perhaps more reasons than ever to feel a little reticent about the party season. Covid remains in circulation and, while your team may have been happily getting on with life for the past 12 months, they may not all feel like cramming themselves into a room with 200 others, around seven of whom (by current figures) are likely to have Covid.
The cost-of-living crisis may mean that simply affording to go the Christmas party may be beyond some of your people. And then there’s the whole host of social, cultural, health and personal reasons that people may have for turning down the invitation.
So this Christmas, here’s how to host an event where everyone is welcome but no one is made to feel othered by declining the invitation.
How to create a more inclusive party feeling
Give everyone a say in the venue and date: A democratic vote at least ensures the final choice will be popular with a significant number of the team.
Be open with your invitation: Give your people permission to say ‘no’ in the invite. “We’d love you to come, but we realise that, even if you’re not double-booked, not everyone loves this sort of event. If that’s you, that’s completely ok”.
Be inclusive: Invite everyone. Don’t make assumptions about who or who will not attend, or about what sort of a party an individual may prefer. Ideally, try and choose a venue where there’s something for everyone.
Respect boundaries: If someone doesn’t want to come, don’t spend the two weeks leading up to the party badgering them to change their mind.
Organise alternatives: You probably won’t know why the people who declined the invitation did so. You don’t need to know and you shouldn’t ask. But you can ask them what sort of get together they might like to see on next year’s programme of events. That will at least ensure you’re holding events that appeal to the broadest possible spectrum.
If you’re heading off to an office party shortly, enjoy it.