Office Christmas Parties

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Six years ago my full-time paid employment ended. I have missed having colleagues, particularly working alongside able young people who are on their way up; I have certainly not missed interminable, pointless meetings. Moreover I cannot understand how, when I was required to go to an office for a working day, I ever managed to meet the demands of on-going domestic administration. On balance life is better.

I can’t say I miss the office Christmas. This was always a difficult time for those us who worked in human resources. Often the most capable senior managers would finish their work two or three or four days before the holiday. Finding themselves at a loose end they would drift done to the HR department for an idle chat about some trivial issue, insensitive of the fact that we might be dealing with something more urgent. Sometimes these urgent matters would be a consequence of alcohol-fuelled excess Christmas events.

One year, when I was working at the headquarters of the National Coal Board in Victoria, London, one of my jobs was to accompany my boss on a tour of the building on Christmas Eve. We need to ensure that the building was secure for the holiday. In one of the cubicles we found a hopelessly inebriated young woman on the floor. Fortunately a colleague who was a close friend was still in the building. She was able to give us a telephone number for the inebriated woman’s husband. However his response was that, as far as he was concerned, she could remain on the floor until the office re-opened in the New Year; he was fed up with her behaviour. With great difficulty we managed to find a mini-cab prepared to drive both the young woman and her friend home. We received no word of thanks.

This was as nothing compared to an incident at the investment bank where I worked for six years during the peak of the city boom, known as Big Bang. Our bank was hopelessly ill-managed and rife with tensions. When faced with a problem the investment bank’s only solution was to throw money at it. The Christmas party was a lavish event, with unlimited alcohol, naively justified as a unifying occasion. Two parts of the organisation had been exchanging insults all year. These were the grossly over-paid financial traders, who considered themselves to be the ultimate alpha males, and the poorly paid security guards, most of whom were ex-army. Predictably a fight broke out between the two sides.

The following day there was a queue of people, some with black eyes, lined up outside the HR Department awaiting interview so that we could decide on the extent of any disciplinary measures. I remember capturing the following from a guard who was popularly known as ‘Psycho’. ‘I saw Kevin on the dance floor and went up to wish him a merry Christmas. I offered him my hand and he drew his back to hit me, so I nutted him’. Sign here Psycho.

My Scottish dance group’s Christmas tea at the Blakeney Hotel on the North Norfolk coast, while thoroughly enjoyable, did not produce similar copy for this blog.

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