Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Bah, humbug!

What are the two most depressing words in the English language? I reckon it’s a toss-up between “awards dinner” and “office party”.

The awards dinner invariably features terrible food, tedious company and not quite enough to drink, right up to the point where you realise that you have in fact drunk far too much. The normal consequence is a night awake with terrible indigestion, followed by a major hangover.

It gets far worse if you actually win an award, which will bring with it the sort of curse that makes Tutankhamen look like a rank amateur. I’ve never actually won one myself, but I’ve picked up a few for clients who thought they could avoid the curse by not laying their own hands on the trophy.

Wrong. I’ve had Northern Foods’ award for the best corporate communications of 1992 sitting on my piano ever since, and it certainly didn’t stop everything going to hell in the proverbial handcart.

The formula for the office party is similar to the awards dinner, except that one is usually conscious of having overdone the drink much earlier in the evening. Its disastrous consequences also have the advantage of being technically avoidable. There may be no way of stopping someone from giving you an award, but it is possible to decline an invitation to snog your secretary (or boss) under the mistletoe, or to make amusing photocopies of your body parts.

In fact, it is perfectly possible not to turn up at all. I can say this with confidence as it was the policy I adopted for 20 years, even when I was supposed to be running the company that was holding the party. It never did my career any harm.

Apparently fewer businesses are holding office parties because they are worried about falling foul of the sexual harassment police. This just goes to show that even the most baleful of modern phenomena have their upsides.

Strangely enough I am holding an office party this year. Just me, my remaining Border terrier and a bottle of malt whisky. I’m even going to present him with an award for “Best Dog That Isn’t Dead.”

Think of us as you don your glad rags for your own Christmas celebrations. I hope it adds a little to your merriment.

Keith Hann is an increasingly retired PR consultant.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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