Company picnics: we’ve all been there, right? You, your coworkers and their kids and partners, all hanging out in a park or at a family fun center or something. You eat a hot dog or a hamburger, drink a free beer, enter a raffle, maybe play a few games, then you call it a day. Sounds pretty innocent, maybe even, dare I say, fun. Right?
Sorry, let me start over again: Company picnics: what a fuckin’ pain in the ass, right? You, your lame coworkers and their annoying families you don’t care about, all hanging out in whatever place was cheapest for your HR/Events department to rent out for a day. You’re surrounded by terrible food and drink options, the top prize in the raffle is a gym bag and a $25 Olive Garden gift card, and there is NO chance you’re roping yourself to fucking Darryl in IT’s leg for a three-legged race because one wrong move and he’s going to topple over and crush you. Then you call it a day, wondering how you got to this point in your life and wondering why you even went.
Good question, friend, because corporate functions are outdated, useless and incredibly boring experiences to be avoided at all costs.
Now, as with many things I’ve bitched about here, I should note that there are exceptions to this rule: lots of companies, particularly smaller ones, throw great functions. I’ve heard of people getting to go see, do, eat, drink, win, take home and generally experience a lot of really awesome things. To which I say: I hate you all and hope all the bad things in life happen to you as a counter-balance to how awesome your workplaces sound, you jerks.
For most of us, though, company picnics and holiday parties are just another Outlook meeting on our calendars. I get the intent behind them — it’s nice to be rewarded for a good year, and it’s not as if they really owe you anything above and beyond a normal paycheck, so that’s all well and good. My issue isn’t with the idea here, it’s with the execution. Every company event I’ve ever gone to has had the same basic timeline:
- 2:00 PM: Event starts
- 2: 45 PM: Arrive purposefully late to event
- 2:47 PM: Get acclimated to surroundings and happenings of the event
- Note: If alcohol is being served, seek out the bar
- 2:55 PM: Look around for your closest friends/coworkers and join their conversation
- Note: Stay with this group for the remainder of the party — work events, like the workplace itself, are cliquish by nature
- 2:57 PM: Casual conversation about weekend/holiday plans, sports, movies, TV, etc.
- 3:01 PM: Conversation inevitably shifts to work topics
- Important Note: Don’t panic! This will happen several more times throughout the day, so be prepared
- 3:13 PM: Someone suggests weariness of talking about work stuff outside of work; group chuckles moderately, falls silent
- 3:14 PM: Group disperses to go “check out more of the party”
- 3:19 PM: Nothing interesting happens; wander around
- 3:27 PM: Meet back up with closest, cliquiest coworkers
- 3:29 PM: Conversation shifts back to work topics
- 3:31 PM: Nothing interesting happens; wander around
- 4:15 PM: Make up series of excuses to justify leaving; wish secretly you’d done so sooner
Honestly, people cannot go very long without talking about work even when they aren’t at work. Come on, guys…I don’t even like talking about my job WHILE I’M DOING MY JOB. Also: Are you guys fully grasping what that means? It means that you share so little in common with your coworkers as people that, if not for the construct of the picnic/party, you wouldn’t even be spending time with them. What a festive and celebratory atmosphere! I sure feel rewarded!
Maybe this comes off like I’m bitter and anti-social, and I guess I’ll accept that criticism — I mean, even if the reasoning isn’t sound, it’s not like you’re wrong. Still, I can think of countless other things I’d rather do than go to another company picnic in my lifetime. I already spend an unhealthy percentage of my life sequestered away in the office — I’ll be damned if I’m letting these same people eat into my free time, especially at the expense of making better plans with cooler people.