John Daly: 'Blessed are the meek, for they'll outshine all at the office party'
My friend Tracey hates Christmas, but it's got nothing to do with Santa or mistletoe. A smart cookie well up the management ladder at a multi-national, she can turn a commercial obstacle into a profit in an eye blink, but present her with the task of 'working the room' at office parties and she's suddenly 16 with braces and pimples at her dreaded debs dance. "And the worst thing about Christmas these days is that it's not just one party anymore, more like three or four, and you have to show up with your game face and be involved," she says. "At least during the recession this whole 'happy, happy good buddies thing' got shelved with cutbacks, but now it's back and worse than ever."
In the brave new world of 2018, we may be able to land a rocket on Mars with the technology packed inside a mobile phone, but the traditional management notion that staff parties boost team morale and strengthen work relationships seems as outdated as it is perverse. A BBC survey suggested this 'tyranny of forced fun at work' is well past its sell-by date. "Karaoke with the visiting team from the Barcelona office is bad enough, but bog snorkling in a fetid pool of noxious water somewhere in the depths of Leitrim - was it for this I put in the endless hours on a computer science Masters?"
Caught between the punch bowl and a hard place, Tracey does concede that the annual office party remains, like the cockroach after a nuclear holocaust, immune to obliteration.
Love them or hate 'em, these December jamborees are where upwardly mobile career contacts are made, not to mention romantic entanglements that often lead to marriage. For some, these gatherings are a form of nature study, like David Attenborough's 'Blue Planet', except with tequila slammers on the boardroom table replacing the Serengeti water hole. "I don't go to parties to meet men. I go to parties to stand in a corner and watch people," said Candace Bushnell, which explains how she got it so right with 'Sex And The City'.
But for Tracey and her multitude of socially reserved disciples, the idea that the meek shall one day inherit the CEO's chair might not be that far away. Introverts tend to be good at listening, solving problems and not feeling compelled to take up all the air in the room, says Morra Aarons-Mele, author of the excellently titled, 'Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You'd Rather Stay Home)'. "There is so much power in the person at the table who talks less but truly contributes wise and strategic thinking."
But, in the meantime, if you are forced to put on your glad rags and schlep reluctantly to yet another office shindig, do not despair. I'll be the guy close by the bar, holding the bottle of decent Prosecco and wearing my best 'happy days' smile. Bring over an empty glass and let's have some fun criticising everybody else. Deal?