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Monday, July 9, 2012

Partying with your boss

Are there limits beyond which we would consider harmful in the process of having fun with our bosses and colleagues? Should we not drop all guards when out on team building activities and just have fun as we would in the company of other friends? This is a critical concern many employees seem to have as they prepare for the office team building retreats.

It is midyear and companies are reviewing the progress of their organizational plans over the last 6 months. This process often takes place out of the office in the form of retreats or dinners to reflect and celebrate the achievements as they plan for the second half of the year. And this ushers in the party season for most of the workplaces. How can we best have fun with our colleagues and bosses while at the same time ensuring we appreciate and respect the power relations within the workplace? 

This was a dilemma that Francisca faced six months during the Christmas break party at her former employer. She feels like she had gone overboard and that could have resulted in her dismissal a few months later. She had accompanied her workmates to the beach party at the close of the year and as had been suggested by the management team, she put all protocol behind her and decided it was time to party and have fun, celebrating great strides made by her department throughout that year.

As she prepared for the party, she had shopped for her most desired party dress and true to her judgment, most of the workmates informed her about how ‘hot’ she looked. She however noticed that a few of the staff appeared shocked at seeing her dressed in the way she was. They had all along known her as a relatively conservative staff and could not relate the Francisca they were seeing at the party with the one sitting behind the accounts desk. It was truly a shocker for all. 

As the meals were served, she appeared too conscious of her weight and hence went for the smallest of the plates and served a portion that could hardly pass for a serious dinner. When the time came for the wine to be served, she generously served herself and in a matter of minutes, she started talking to everyone on the table as though they were her younger brothers and sisters. She got into a joke-making mood and some of them were squarely targeted at her bosses and as the team ate the night away, some of the bosses were getting more and more uncomfortable with her talk and decided to move to other distant tables. Francisca had lost her person and was uttering words least expected from such a finesse woman.

Parting with your boss is one of the most important occasions for workplace teambuilding. It presents an opportunity for the team to interact with each other away from the confines of the office environment. This enables staff to know each other more and provides an opportunity to share ideas not easily available on the normal days. 

It is however important to note that even with the expanded and free space during office parties, some level of protocol and respect is still expected of everyone in attendance. The boss still remains the head of the unit and should be accorded their appropriate respect regardless of the games and dining. You will want to consider using appropriate language when dealing with the persons at the party as they remain the same people you meet at work.

As people get overcome by the power of the pleasure during parties, there is always a tendency to utter words that may easily jeopardize your chances of growing within the organization. A friend once indicated their dissatisfaction with their job while under the influence of alcohol at an office function and as a result, the contract was not renewed when the time came for the performance appraisal. Although no reference was made to the comment made at the party, other colleagues indicated it could have been informed by the talk at the office party. 

And so, the next time you go out partying, party as much you like but within the confines of decorum and respect for others.

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