Now that we are getting close to holiday party season. I thought I would tell two holiday party stories, both pretty weird. This is the first of them. It is the story of a holiday party no one wanted to go to and is 100% true. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season filled with love, friendship and happy parties, none like this one.
I have tried to stay to the facts with no exaggeration or creative license because it is amazing enough as it happened. You can’t make this stuff up.
I joined the agency in the fall as a senior partner and I quickly learned that it was very dysfunctional – more than most. This story is a good illustration of why. By November, people were asking me if I could do anything to make the upcoming holiday party more spontaneous and fun. People told me it was very dull, stiff, formatted and un-spontaneous. The party was organized and run by the office manager, who was a lovely woman, but very anal – everything in the office, including this party, was scheduled and controlled. (I wisely decided that since I had just joined the agency and it was my first party, I would not get involved.)
The biggest hint that this event would be laborious was the way the invitation was sent. It was a staff memo - formal and cold and very matter of fact. The party was at a downtown, West Village restaurant that no one had ever heard of (before or since). The agency was nice enough to pay for employees to get to the party, but only if they went in assigned groups. The car pools had been set up by the office manager and only the designated employee could pay and be reimbursed. The invitation stated that when we arrived at the venue, we should be sure to check in with a designated employee so that they would know that we were there (message: attendance is mandatory). Nice way to create esprit de corps.
Sure enough, the week before the party, every employee was given a car pool assignment – there was no switching. The first car was to leave at 5:15 for the long ride down to the venue.
Once there, each person was given chits for drinks (who ever heard of chits at a private party?). Of course, table seatings were assigned so that there was no spontaneity. Senior management, including me, all sat together (heaven forbid that the senior executives should sit with and mix with other employees). There was no music initially and nothing conducive to fun or a real party. The smart people belted a couple of drinks down before dinner was served.
There were no speeches, no welcome, no thanks for a good year. I was told by long term employees that this was usual.
It was the most dour and least festive group I ever saw. No one got dressed up because no one gave a damn. Dinner was pre-set with a choice of meat or fish. There were no options for other courses. It took until about 6:25 for everyone to arrive. Dinner was served promptly at 7. Everyone got a glass of wine, but there were no refills. The wine and food were actually good.
At 8:30pm the DJ arrived and set up. He was allowed to start music at 9pm. The music was actually good. The DJ was allowed to dim the lights, but there was no disco ball or complicated lighting. I actually did say something and the president of the agency told me that, “This is an ad agency, not a radio station.” Huh? Shortly after the music started I looked around and the other senior executives were nowhere to be seen. It was only about 9:30.
What a waste. The worst part was that the management of the agency was so removed that they had no idea that there were any issues or that anything was wrong with the party.
I did not stay at the agency even a year, but I heard that the next year was even worse. It was held at an expensive mid-town restaurant and there was no music at all. Just a dull dinner. And I was told the food was terrible.
The irony of this is that one of the best holiday parties I ever attended was at a smallish agency where there was no formal party, but everyone brought food and drink; someone brought music tapes (remember them?) and we had lots of fun drinking and dancing. It doesn’t have to be formal.
Have a terrific holiday season filled with fun and love!!!