November 14, 2008 / 6:12 PM / 10 years ago

Britons dread the drunken office Christmas party

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Almost a third of British office workers actively hate the annual office Christmas party, new research has suggested.

Revelers dance at an office Christmas party in London December 13, 2007. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

The “Christmas do” has something of a bad reputation, conjuring up images of photocopied backsides and illicit clinches in the stationery cupboard, so it is unsurprising that so many workers view it with trepidation.

Yet the research, carried out by The British Greyhound Racing Board, concludes that almost 70 percent of workers don’t care about their office Christmas party for the simple reason that they do not want to mix socially with their work colleagues.

The poll of 1,000 British office workers suggested that the biggest problem with the office Christmas bash was that it forces them to socialize with people that they have nothing in common with other than work.

Jo Hemmings, a leading behavioral psychologist, said that office parties create an unnatural situation that obliges workers to socialize and, even worse, dance, with people they would prefer to see only in a professional context.

“While we can choose our friends to party and socialize with - we cannot choose our work colleagues,” Hemmings said.

She said that the reason so many workers see their office party as a chore is that it takes them out of their comfort zone.

“While most people like to let their hair down and enjoy the fact that they are being treated to an event, they don’t want to be out in a potentially embarrassing or dull situation with colleagues, with the only common thread being work itself,” Hemmings said.

The poll showed that workers feel pressure to be witty, entertaining and glamorous at their Christmas parties, and that one in five workers feel out of place, and hate having to dress up for the event.

Hemmings said that adding alcohol to the already awkward mix makes many office parties a recipe for disaster.

Almost a quarter of those interviewed said that after indulging in a little-too-much Christmas spirit they ended up telling a colleague exactly what they thought of them, and one-in-five admitted to a romantic liaison with a colleague, or worse, their boss.

The biggest office party embarrassment among workers was terrible drunken dancing, with more than 40 percent saying that they had committed this most cardinal of social sins.

Hemmings said that the solution was to identify alternatives to the traditional boozy office get-together.

“Bosses should look at alternative party solutions, ones that create a bonding activity which is fun but avoids personal issues, boredom or embarrassment, and suggest a venue and a social environment in which office hierarchy is not an issue so that people do not feel out of place.”

This is all good news for The British Greyhound Racing Board, who commissioned the poll as part of a promotion encouraging businesses to consider swapping their Christmas office parties for a night out at one of the 28 dog racing stadia around Britain.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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