A few thoughts on staff parties

Last night we rung in the Year of the Dog.

Staff parties are always a little odd. A Chinese New Year’s party is appropriate, given where I work, but it was still…a little odd. I don’t know if it’s a function of the people involved, or the atmosphere, or what. Maybe it’s just my well known loathing for parties and most social events.

At any rate, it was a potluck, and the combination of dishes was quite intriguing. Most people brought some version of “Chinese” food, but I was the only one foolish enough to actually bring Chinese food—an assortment of dim sum which was viewed by the party goers with deep suspicion and confusion. But the food was ok.

It’s just sort of odd, all sitting around at work, with the people you work with and their partners, eating. There wasn’t much alcohol at the party, which wasn’t an immense problem for me given that I rarely drink, but I think it provided a serious stumbling block for some of the partygoers. (Some of whom made a mass exodus to the outdoors about halfway through to indulge in local agricultural products.) We all hung about awkwardly and ate and made small talk, and I made my escape early, pleading exhaustion.

So, what is it with staff parties? It’s a nice idea, the bosses throwing a little shin dig and usually distributing bonuses and so forth, but I often find myself staring blankly at my coworkers, wondering if I would ever see them socially if we didn’t work together. You realize cavernous gaps in personal interests as one person is talking about playing guitar while you have a brisk discussion about the air force with another party goer.

I think inane party games go a long way to helping staff parties. A white elephant gift exchange, for example, is a good idea. Musical chairs. A cakewalk. Bobbing for apples. Some sort of common ground for everyone to agree upon, even if it’s silly and rather stupid. That and buckets of alcohol. It makes people far more entertaining, I believe.