Non-IT WTF: how not to run a *work* party

  • SockDev

    Sometimes a company just has to celebrate something. Usually such celebrations are little more than attaboys, but the mortgage company this one time decided to go push the envelope.

    They'd been in operation a few years and had managed to make the sum total of £2bn of lending. This was, apparently, a Big Deal.

    So they decided to throw a party. Just down the road from the office block they part-rented, was a town hall with a decent park out the back of it. Plenty of room to throw a party for the entire company; we weren't that large at that point (even though we'd technically been borged by then, we were still basically autonomous even in our own premises)

    The first WTF was the fact they threw this party on a Thursday. This was totally in line with the rest of the 'sports and social club' policy. All social events that the company is involved in should be on a week night to avoid employees getting too drunk. But still, if you're operating a party with drink and fireworks and food, you probably should have it on a Friday. Doubly so if you're pulling everyone in even from the regional offices to allow them the choice of when/how to get back. But it's still a WTF not to have big events on a Friday even if the smaller stuff is weekday stuff.

    The second WTF was the venue. The park in question is not unpleasant, but getting 250 people or so under a single marquee tent type thing, in a field in southern England... even in August... is not the most environmentally comfortable thing you've ever done. British weather is renowned for being terrible for a reason.

    The third WTF was the drink. While we were outside in the park, the hall had, I believe, been hired as well. Except for reasons I never understood, the bar was closed. Yup, this town hall had a bar with (better than average) beer on tap, but no, that part was off limits.

    This wouldn't be so much of a WTF if it weren't for the drastic under-buying of alcohol. 250 people can drink a reasonable amount. When the party starts at shortly after 5.30pm and you're out of alcohol by 6.45pm, something is wrong.

    The fourth WTF was also the drink. Because of the under buying, some managers decided they'd pop down to the local supermarket (which was within walking distance) and acquire some alcohol. Some of the more nice managers were planning on doing this themselves on their own dime, but a few were planning to stick it on expenses. Trouble is, the head of HR decided to mandate how much alcohol was to be brought on the premises, which at that point would have amounted to another half a beer each.

    Not deterred, the managers who were set to do this went and did it anyway and more than one of them found themselves receiving a verbal warning the following morning from HR for not complying with HR instruction.

    Oddly enough I don't remember if the head of HR drank alcohol or not.

    But at least the fireworks were pretty good.

  • @Arantor said:

    British weather is renowned for being terrible for a reason.

    I believe the term is "Lovely English weather" (yes, I've experienced it).

    @Arantor said:

    for reasons I never understood, the bar was closed

    Reminds me of when I was playing an outdoor gig in a town with the most notable brewery in the region. The drummer (sensibly) said he'd be drinking after the gig. By the time we finished, bar was closed. Going to Rome and not seeing the Pope, indeed.

    @Arantor said:

    Oddly enough I don't remember if the head of HR drank alcohol or not.

    If s/he didn't then its a case of the Gardner's Dog (won't eat it, but won't let you have any).

  • I've experienced these kind of parties before. To actually lay on enough food and drink for 250 people would cost a fortune (although you'd get change out of 2 billion quid) and there's normally a disconnect between the people who want the party to happen & be well provisioned and those with access to the pot of money.

  • SockDev

    Oh there was plenty of food about. The problem was strictly the under-provision of alcohol which I was sure then, and am sure now, that it was deliberate rather than accidental. The ban on additional alcohol being purchased by people out of their own pocket was definitely a factor in that.

  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    250 people? You should be able to cater for them reasonably for £10k–£15k, as long as you're not doing fancy food and alcohol (£10k would be £40 each, which is pretty generous actually). There are definitely some economies of scale that kick in, such as it being worthwhile doing direct import of champagne from France.

    If someone managed to charge over a million for that… I'm in the wrong business. 😃

  • It does sound deliberate which is crap because most people respond well to being treated like adults and those who don't can be reprimanded.

    Our functions have a boilerplate thing which says something along the lines of "Have fun, there's plenty of drink but don't forget it's a work's do". I haven't seen people written-off but a good time has been had by all.

  • SockDev

    I don't know how much spending was done, but it was a celebration of giving away £2bn to people.

    Food wasn't anything special at all. Bulk buying at the local supermarket type stuff. A few BBQ style burgers and hotdogs floating around.

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