“Oh! you might say. “But I’m a fun boss, a cool boss, the CEO who’s having a good time.” And to you I say: it’s so much worse.
Bosses shouldn’t force employees to laugh at their jokes or watch them captive as they wiggle their limbs to the rhythm. I was the employee who asked the boss “Stay!” Drink! Dance!” and I’m now here to say don’t listen to this employee. shouting, “DO NOT PROMOTE”.)
The worst office parties become competitions to win the boss’s favor, which should never be determined by the sincerity of a compliment at a definitely non-compulsory social event.
And when pints and promotions go hand in hand, the inequities get worse. Alcohol-centric parties exclude those who don’t drink for religious, health, or other reasons. A report 2016 by Demos, a UK think tank, found that 43% of young workers felt abstinence was a barrier to workplace integration. Working parents who cannot spend hours in the pub or bar also risk exclusion.
Office parties have been linked to gender harassment. A 2019 survey by researchers at Penn State and Ohio State University found that in the workplace, for both men and women, “fun activities in general are associated with higher levels of unwanted sexual attention and that “mandatory attendance and holding activities at nights and weekends” increased the likelihood of “unwanted sexual attention”. When a colleague crosses a line, that’s one thing, but it’s much harder to talk when it’s the boss.
That’s not to say office parties should be scrapped — they’re a great way for co-workers to bond and for employers to show appreciation. But at their most memorable, they don’t usually involve what could be described as professional behavior. The most talked about office parties involve someone breaking a table, someone throwing up in the corner of the office, or someone sleeping in said office until the next day. But that kind of fun is only fun when a boss doesn’t witness it or encourage it.
So world bosses, please learn from Mr Johnson’s blunders. Office parties are not for you. They’re yours to fund, sure, but after a few sips of hot champagne, you should leave your employees and let them carry on.