The silly season is upon us: the Christmas decorations are up; the office is slowly thinning out as people use up their remaining holidays; the Secret santa draw has left you needing to buy a gift for someone you've never spoken to.
Soon it'll be time for that special event we all look forward to with an equal measure of anticipation and fear - the night we get drunk with (gulp) our workmates - the Christmas staff party.
For most of us it's a fairly trivial affair: we'll only remember half of it and if we do embarrass ourselves we have the whole of the Christmas break to lie low and hope that people forget.
For some though, it's the most dangerous event in the working year - a veritable assault course of potential problems. A time when the heady mix of alcohol, excitement, lust and regret could form the perfect storm of embarrassing 'chats', disciplinary action and even sackings.
At this time of year we should all spare a thought for the poor HR Manager.
In the interest of making the season of peace and goodwill as stress-free as possible for the beleaguered personnel department here are 5 top tips for avoiding Christmas party calamity:
1. Don't have the party in the office
The first and most important tip is all about getting people as far away from expensive company equipment and sensitive data as possible. No one wants to come into the office the day after the Xmas bash to find that all documents relating to the company's largest account were shredded in an exuberant attempt to make the office look more 'wintry'.
The place where everyone rubs up against each other all day every day also carries connotations that you don't necessarily want amplified by the demon drink. Old enmities are more likely to resurface, old crushes more likely to reignite.
Minimise your risk: book All Bar One. The sanitary environment of a large chain pub will instantly kill off any slight stirrings of 'good feeling' that could turn nasty.
2. Don't put a minimum spend on Secret Santa gifts
Every office has its curmudgeons, its Scrooges, its stick-in-the-muds. Some people wouldn't be capable of getting into the Christmas spirit if Santa himself popped out of their desk drawer. These are also the people most likely to cause controversy at the Christmas do by spreading malicious gossip or complaining about the poor selection of seasonal ales on offer at All Bar One.
Stay on their good side by not 'making' them spend money on their colleagues.
3. Don't put loads of money behind the bar
You'll just encourage them. The price of drinks at All Bar One should act as a significant deterrent to getting absolutely plastered and throwing up on the MD.
4. Throw cold water on any potential romantic 'activity'
Ways of achieving this include:
- telling either party that their object of affection hooked up with you at last year's Xmas bash and then blanked you the next day;
- telling them that the job application of the person they fancy ran to seven pages due to disclosure of medical conditions;
- actually throwing cold water on them at the first sign of inappropriate activity. The friendly waiting staff at All Bar One will be able to lend you an ice bucket.
5. Reverse psychology: be more embarrassing than anyone else
For application in desperate situations only: get more plastered and make a greater fool of yourself than is possible for anyone else. Drink until you fall over, flash the accounts department, snog the manager of All Bar One and get into a fight with a policeman before falling asleep in a kebab. Everyone at the party will be so distracted by your embarrassing, cringe-worthy and shudder-inspiring behaviour that they'll forget to have a good time themselves.
Just follow the above tips and all your Christmas party conduct worries will be sorted for another year!