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Surviving the Office Christmas Party - Part 1

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Laws of Motion 

(De- or Pro-)

WITH only three Fridays left before Christmas, the only thing there will be more of than murders in Trinidad for the rest of the year will be office Christmas parties—and you stand almost a better chance of surviving a drive-by shooting than a sit-down dinner with your coworkers and bosses. What you say and do at the office Christmas do may well undoyou. Your Christmas bonus might transmogrify into a ham or a bottle; or, indeed, a severance payment. But what you’re shooting for is a move up, with a salary increase, not just a glitzy title to make you work harder out of false pride over an equally ersatz career advancement.

The office Christmas party is a bit of a Tom Cruise Impossible Mission Force proposition: your invitation, should you decide to accept it, will require you to spend as much as six extra hours of your precious free time with people you’re already forced to spend eight hours with every day; and all you’ll get for losing a night with your real friends will be a “free” meal comprising: a slice of turkey dry enough to stuff a mattress; a pastelle that would be just cou-cou without its three raisins, half a green olive and  fingernail’s worth of minced beef; Spanish rice that tastes more like Syrian-refugee rice; a Kiss sponge cake soaked in soy sauce some determined optimist insists is black cake; a runny yellow liquid with just enough rum in it to taste of old socks—if that is ponche crème, I’m Bruce Willis—and, the one thing office Christmas catering can’t firetruck up completely, one-and-a-half slices of  ham–and the Muslims and cloven hoof-suspicious Christians are left out of even that.

Should you decide to accept your impossible invitation, though, remember the BC Laws of Office Party Demotion/Promotion, as powerful as Newton’s Laws of Motion.

BC’s First Law of Office Party Demotion/Promotion: Every employee in uniform tends to remain in the same pay grade unless drunken force is applied to him, her or the boss. The office Christmas party’s stated premise—everyone enjoys one another’s company in joyous, relaxed celebration—is a crock: the atmosphere may be less tense than  the Gestapo motif under which the enterprise operates day-to-day, cheap liquor might be flowing and people might be talking—but the boss is still the boss. He’s not drinking Ye Olde Ponche Crème Mystery but something from a bottle hidden behind the bar, constantly refilled by his favourite lackey, who lacks such brains as are necessary for it, but hopes to toady his or her way into “Management;” the general equivalent of a prisoner-turnkey, and specifically the one-eyed guy in Midnight Express. Make the mistake of thinking that, “All o’we is one” at an office Christmas party; and you’ll be the one who is no longer part of the all o’ them.

BC’s Second Law of Office Party Motion: The relationship between an employee’s pro- or demotion, m, his or her advancement in the company, a, and sleeping with the boss, F, is F = ma; sometimes represented, um, loosely, as, Firetruck = me. There are only two types of bosses in Trinidad: 1. The type who uses the Christmas party to befriend his staff and make up for his own shortcomings in the year; and 2. The type who sees it as a chance to get to screw his staff as literally on this one night as he has been figuratively for the rest of the year. Regrettably, most private Trinidadian companies and all state ones are led by type twos; luckily, at least for the better-looking and more married women on staff, the type two boss normally gets far too drunk from way too early to bother to try to edge someone off the payroll and into his bedroll. The Second

Law of Demotion applies even if the boss is female and the employee, male, the only difference being that, for a male subordinate, performance-assessment is directly affected by performance anxiety.

BC’s Third Law of Office Party Motion: For every action, there is an equal

and opposite reaction. There is no clearer relationship between Trini

office Christmas parties and Sir Isaac Newton than this third law. Put another way, whatever you try at the office party will backfire. If you attempt to be friendly with your supervisor, he or she will resent it (even if that’s the whole purpose of the Christmas party: see the First

Law of Demotion, supra). If, however, you keep a respectful distance, you’ll be assessed as too stiff or too stoosh: who do you think you are, to refuse to socialise with us?

Next week, we’ll move from theory to practice and illustrate real life office Christmas party survival tactics. But remember, even if it’s lame, there would be no party at all without the nuts-and-bolts organisers, who get nothing out of it, except time off from real work (which they have to make up anyway). They are the ones you thank (or blame). It’s not easy, coming up with yet another concept for a Christmas party that no one will sneer at. The truest law of the office Christmas party is that the people who work hardest to bring it about will go least appreciated. So, if you’re cuffing down all the company is stumping up for, give props to those who made it happen by creating a theme as magical as, say, “Star Wars: The Accounts Dept Awakens”.  And here’s a good place to big-up the redoubtable Bernadette M and Guardian Media’s own Christmas party committee.

BC Pires is crashing the lesbian Christmas party.


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