Nothing is quite so interesting as a business function where alcohol is flowing like water (which has always been my experience). For some reason people repeatedly forget that they are at a business function and not a frat party, and they do stupid things I refer to as CLM (Career Limiting Moves). There are a few particularly memorable gaffes. At a party years ago one of my colleagues, drunk as a skunk, started going on and on about what a jerk our boss was (and if only he had just said jerk instead of the term he actually used) and when our boss appeared behind him, all of my desperate efforts to get him to shut up were foiled until I finally said (way too loudly) “Oh wow, look who’s here!” and spun him around by his shoulders. I don’t think he remembered any of it on Monday morning, but our boss sure did.
I was on a retreat years ago where the social event one evening was karaoke. Harmless and fun, until everyone is smashed. At 8:00 in the evening we were all singing American Pie together, awesome. By 11:00 one of my colleagues was singing Wind Beneath My Wings to her boss, and they were both sobbing and hugging. I’m not saying it wasn’t touching…I’m just saying it wasn’t…well I guess I am indeed saying it wasn’t touching. So that’s that.
I had only been at one of my firms a couple of weeks when one of the other managers came back from lunch slurring his words. I told him to leave before anyone else saw him, and I would cover for him with our boss. He burst out laughing and said “who do you think took me out drinking today?” Oh. That’s how I discovered that my boss not only tolerated drinking lunches, she very seriously encouraged them. I’ll say this much, it was a fun crowd.
Sometimes alcohol isn’t even part of the equation. At that same firm, all of the managers were on one floor lined up in a string of offices. There were not attorneys on our floor, so sometimes we indulged in a little fun. Unfortunately, our boss walked into the hallway when we were having a particularly brutal marshmallow fight, and someone may have even clipped her with one before they realized she was there. Drinking, A-OK. Marshmallow fights? Not so much. Not long after we all got a terse email from her about the “dorm-like” environment on our floor. I hung on to that email for a while, because it was extra special; one of the main reasons I worked there was because of the “dorm-like” environment. We all worked really hard, what’s a harmless little food fight every now and again?
Several firms later I encountered the worst social event ever, and there was absolutely no booze involved. It was the firm’s Thanksgiving lunch, and I was running a few minutes late. When I finally got to the conference room, all the lights were down and everyone was holding hands praying to Jesus. I left the room, incredulous, and found myself with the Muslim partner who had recently joined the firm. We literally stood there with our mouths hanging open until I excused myself to call the HR Director, who thought I was playing a practical joke on her because it was such a far-fetched story. The best part of that story is that one of the staff asked why I didn’t attend, and I mentioned I was Jewish and it had made me uncomfortable, and she said “oh, I didn’t realize Jews don’t pray.” Au contraire mon ami! I began praying fervently that I could quickly find a job at a firm that didn’t suck.
Booze or not, I really love observing the social behavior of employees in their natural habitat. What prey do they stalk? Are they nocturnal? Can they make tools, and fire? What are their mating habits? I’m almost as curious as Jane Goodall. Almost.