December 13, 2008

Party Like It's 1999...

Oh, to Christmas-Staff-Party, or not to Christmas-Staff-Party...what do you do?

I was pondering this the other day. Not on a personal level - when you freelance, a staff Christmas party means you drape a tinsel boa on one cat, and let the other one share your tuna sandwich. But I've wondered about the optics for real companies, and have been watching some cut the party (would seem kind of evil to cut staff, but not the party), while others carry on. A piece from the Star considers the impact of both options.

As a kid, we had the huge Dofasco Christmas party, which is pretty much world famous. Well, it was in our world. We'd drive to some far, far away parking lot in Hamilton, wait to get on a shuttle buzz, feet half frozen, then be deposited at the doors of a cavernous warehouse filled - I mean, literally filled - with huge toy booths, clowns, people, candy-cane wielding elves, music and craziness. My father hated it. Not much for parties, that guy, and less for noise and craziness. But we loved it.

The company used to deliver to the house a box containing tins and jars of neat food and treats first, and at the actual party, each kid would be clutching a coupon to get a gift. You'd go up to your booth, hold out your 'Girl - Age 8' and select what you wanted.

And they had good stuff. Expensive stuff. And my mother would implore us not to pick something huge that would have to lugged back on the shuttle. Of course, one year I chose a stuffed toy that was bigger than I was.

My father worked there for 40 years. He was a bricklayer, and Dofasco was a gold ring. The company had profit sharing, a term I understood from the time I was about 7. Employees had stock. They mattered. I used to read the employee newsletter avidly every month - I liked the suggestion box feature where they paid, I think, 50 bucks for the best suggestion. And they actually implemented them, either to save money or improve safety.

Of course, you hear little about anything close to this now. My dad literally got a gold watch - there are no gold watch jobs now. I can't even fathom how a Christmas party of those long-ago dimensions would fly nowadays. When I had my own company, we'd take staff, spouses and friends out for a nice dinner. We were small; it was doable.

WebGod Jeff and I kid that we have our own staff party - sometime over the holidays, we try to get out for a beer. He too works on his own, so we provide each other's staff party.

There's tons of articles floating about now telling you what to wear, and definitely what not to wear, if you have a party to attend. They tell you how much (not) to drink, and to treat the thing as a business meeting regardless of how festive it may appear.

The Wheels department is a bunch of freelancers, and we're lucky that some of the writers are kind enough to pony up a Christmas party. Tonight, Nika is opening the doors of her rather posh home to this grotty crew - I'm deciding the official protocols don't apply - we've all seen each other at our idiotic worst (some would say that's our best, too), so it'll be fun.

But I can't imagine it's a good year for most celebrating - a story out of Vancouver kind of drives that home. A man, recently let go, returned to his former employer's Christmas party and opened fire, killing one. And they were only having chips and dip, apparently.

Have a party, don't have a party - seems there's no right way this year. But in this time of drastic cuts and desperate measures, it's the human part of all of us that is suffering. It's not an option to be defined by your paycheque if you don't have one; it's also worth remembering that no paycheque doesn't equal less person, either.

The wolf isn't just at the door anymore; in many cases, he's in the damned house. Spare a thought and share what you have when you can. It's that human element that can rise above all of this, and remind us that Christmas doesn't start in a mall.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHAT? You're going to another Christmas party? I guess I'll just drink beer, sing Christmas carols and tell my boss off all by myself...

December 13, 2008 1:48 PM  
Blogger DJW said...

awww poor Jeff.

I bet she's feeling kind of sheepish about it all now.

We all wish ewe a Merry Christmas.


December 13, 2008 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this rot about "optics" and Staff Christmas Party. Everyone knows you book a top rate chef like Emeril Lagasse months in advance. You going to telex him and say "sorry Emeril, Bam! we've turned it down a whole lot!"
Have the party, lay on the booze, take pictures. laugh at the boss's bad jokes then just before he tries to sack you next week, show him those wonderful pics you took of him and that cute male intern.
"I'd say it's time we talked about a raise..."

December 13, 2008 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, really? Still with the sheep references?

December 14, 2008 9:36 AM  
Blogger DJW said...

I figured I had to bleat Roz to it.


December 14, 2008 11:24 AM  

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