Work Parties, You're doing them wrong

ZB Blog Post 1

Work parties can be seriously awkward - there's a reason why they feature as key scenes in so many movies and TV shows. Luckily, these crash-and-burn scenes offer some teachable moments about what NOT to do at your office party...

Got beef?

There's a scene in legendary producer Martin Scorcese's movie Goodfellas (yes, gangsters have Christmas parties too!) where gangster Jimmy Conway (Robert de Niro) rips into an underling for being rather too mouthy about sensitive "company activities" in front of other partygoers. It's seriously cringe, but not unusual: office parties can often lead to oversharing.

Teachable moment #1: yes, you're at a party - but still with people you work with. Avoid TMI stories (nobody needs to know about your weird medical condition, Fred!), gossiping about colleagues, or sharing your true feelings about the MD - with the MD. It can only lead to hard feelings (or jobs lost!) on Monday morning.

Tip: If tempers are flaring in your office, relieve the tension with a low-key, stress-free work event: take the team bowling. It's a fun, constructive way of building team spirit and getting rid of simmering resentment: simply bowl (or laser tag) it off!

Party Planning meltdown

In the US version of The Office, Jim and Dwight drop the ball when they forget Kelly's birthday party. The pair prove to be a perfect storm of party incompetence: arguing, terrible half-inflated brown balloons "that match the carpets", not enough money collected from the office pool, history's strangest list of "office party games", bland cake (without Kelly's name on it...), the petty quarrels and pain of putting it all together...

Teachable moment #2: Good parties should be kept simple. Put an organised individual in charge, make sure HR approves a budget for it, and then outsource the pre-party organising and post-party clean up to people who do this all the time and can tick the most important boxes: great food and drinks, good music and no-pressure fun.

Tip: No brown balloons. Ever.

Cake matters

The movie Office Space gives us one of the saddest office birthday parties ever: unsmiling faces, monotonous singing and docile, sad office worker Milton missing out on a piece of birthday cake (again!) because the "ratio of cake to people" was off. It's any office party's nightmare: the food running out, or being terrible. Think sandwiches soaked in tomato juice, limp salads, cold pizza with congealed cheese... Enough to pronounce a party dead in the water.

Teachable moment #3: Make sure that you've got great food, and plenty of it. Don't make things too complex, either: choose easy to hold, easy to eat snacks that people love.

Tip: Zone Bowling's group and corporate packages include delicious menu options and shareable platters - you pick, we make sure that it's fresh, delicious and that there's enough for everyone.

Panic at the disco...

You can dance if you want to - but if your colleagues start telling you hell no, maybe stop. Or you could end up like poor Elaine from Seinfeld: her uncoordinated moves at one office party scared her co-workers, trashed the office walls and ended up on a bootlegged videotape that makes her dance moves infamous throughout New York City.

Teachable moment #4: Some people love dancing, some don't. Some people enjoy karaoke, others loathe it. Settle for an office party solution that makes all your colleagues feel comfortable and helps them to relax and enjoy themselves without pressure or embarrassment.

Drowning your sorrows?

The Office is actually compulsory watching when it comes to what not to do at an work party. In the series' first Christmas Party episode, Michael ruins Secret Santa (see point below) and makes up for it by giving his team loads of vodka. Cue Meredith flashing people in the office. (She also went on to light her hair on fire in the Moroccan Christmas party in season five).

Arrested Development fans might remember Michael's epic party fail at the Bluth Company: too many martinis and punch lead to a dodgy karaoke edition of "Afternoon Delight" with his niece. We're still cringing.

Teachable moment #5: Don't overindulge in alcohol: at best, you'll be embarrassed at something you said or did. At worst, you could lose your job, a limb, or even your life. A glass of champagne or a bottle of beer is fine, but take it slow. And avoid all home-made pink punches that are bubbling in a strange way...

Tip: Try to limit the amount of alcohol available at the party. If you're hosting an office party at an outside venue, offering pre-paid drinks vouchers can help to set a limit on how much people are drinking.

Secret Santa surprise

In golden oldie Trading Places, actor Dan Aykroyd's character crashes his previous employee's Christmas party dressed as a very dodgy Santa. The poor guy's trying to get revenge for a bad bet gone wrong, and decides to surprise his rival with some "gifts" in his desk drawer... It's kind of like the trauma of Secret Santa at the office: you never know what you're going to get. And it's probably going to be lame, inappropriate, or even insulting. Secret Santa is an annoying mission, and mostly a terrible letdown. The only way to make it worse? To channel Michael's "bad Santa" moment in The Office: disappointed with his own Secret Santa gift, he ruins it for everyone else by suggesting they play "Yankee Swap": stealing each other's gifts.

Teachable moment #6: Don't make it an effort for team members to bond by forcing them to do something that usually just leads to disappointment. Or sometimes even anger.

Tip: If you really want some kind of gift exchange, give each team member $10. The bring them to the ZONE BOWLING prize shop, where they can pick their own perfect party gift!