Monday, December 17, 2007

Office holiday party - teambuilding or torture?

Last month I was speaking in Orlando to a group of Gen Xers and Millenials and the topic of office holiday parties came up. Basically, there was no one in the audience who wanted to attend them and no one who could figure out how to get out of them. It's a pretty common complaint among the under-40 crowd.

I, myself, spent nine years working at a college and trying to avoid potlucks, cookie exchanges, and the dreaded Christmas party at the boss' house. The Babyboomer women I worked with would get so annoyed with me - I wasn't a team player. And yet, the Babyboomer men just had to show up for such events (no casserole required if you had a Y chromosome.)

The whole thing was so frustrating, because these people were not my friends - they were my co-workers.

Getting back to the presentation in Orlando, we brainstormed for solutions to avoiding the office party, and the best we could come up with is "I'm going to be out of town." And as I researched the topic a bit more, it turns out that "suck it up" is about the only thing you can do without hindering your career.

Earlier this year, I was talking to a meeting planner in Michigan who said he is having trouble getting certain company events off the ground. Specifically, for years there has been a three-day "retreat" at a northern Michigan resort that included some work, and a lot of dinners and activities. The planner said the Xers did not want to come. They wanted to do it in one concentrated day - all work and no play.

I think these situations are both part of the same issue. Generation Xers are looking for a work-life balance. That means work being something separate from life. Not having your life be your work, your colleagues, your company.

So what is the solution? Do we go along with the festivities and hope the Boomers retire soon? Or do we revolt?


Anonymous said...

Maybe it's the age of the tech industry that I'm in, but I have become close personal friends with a couple of my coworkers and friends with most of them, including from other departments.

Also, our company party is truly an appreciation of the employees. It's held at a nice venue, there's an open bar for a while, you can schmooze with the CEO because she's walking around drinking as well, there is great food, lots of decent prizes (like gift cards for Best Buy and Target) and a band. Best is that you're not expected to go, it's totally a perk and on you'd be crazy to pass on it.

Basically, there is something for everyone and everyone gets pretty lit... and we're not a small company.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to add to that, don't revolt, reinvent.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind our holiday party that much anymore, there are more GenXer working at the libraries now. I go to catch up on what they are doing and look at pics of their kids.

Anonymous said...

I think I might be a bit odd - I actually offered up my house for the office party this year. I agree with Scott though - I have a couple of coworkers who are really close friends and I was looking forward to hanging out with them after hours for a party. Maybe that's the key - once a few coworkers become a bigger part of your life - it's easier to enjoy