As I write this, it’s late November which means very soon the dreaded request to “help” plan the end-of-year office party will appear in my email inbox.
At least, it used to be an email I dreaded. Now, it’s just another email I delete as soon as it arrives.
Did you immediately think, “What a Grinch!” when you read the above confession? I won’t deny I’ve been known to mutter the occasional “Bah Humbug” during the month of December. However, that’s not why I immediately delete the request.
I also delete requests to help plan Spring Flings, Summer Sizzlers, and Fall Festivals. And I will continued to do so without the slightest bit of guilt.
This is because after twenty-plus years of being in the workforce, I have concluded volunteering for the role of office party planner will not benefit my career and could actually work against me.
People Attend Office Parties Because They Have To, Not Because They Want To
For the most part, throughout my career I’ve generally liked the people I’ve worked with. I’ve even developed really deep friendships with some of them. But that doesn’t mean I look forward to office parties (aka “forced frivolity”).
And I’m not the only one.
The results of a recent survey on the issue found that 90 percent of employees would rather get a bonus or additional paid time off than attend an office holiday party. In addition, 62 percent admitted to feeling obligated to attend such functions.
In light of this, what benefit is there in having my name associated with such an event? Not a lot that I can think of.
Time Spent Planning is Time You Aren’t Working on Your Actual Job
Another reason to refrain from volunteering is that planning office parties can be a really big time and energy suck.
Tasks include everything from picking a date—which, unless you are planning the party really far in advance, is bound to conflict with someone’s schedule—to organizing games. And if you have to do all this as part of a committee? Yikes!
Maybe you are one of those people who like this kind of thing, and doesn’t mind the additional work. But, even if that’s the case, you can’t deny that the time needed to get everything done is time not spent on the thing you are actually being paid to do.
As a result, you could be stuck working late so your projects don’t suffer which could limit the time you have available to spend with family and friends. This doesn’t seem like a good trade off, especially during the end of year holidays.
Volunteering Once Could Result in You Planning All Future Parties
Sadly, volunteering to be the office party planner once could haunt you for years to come as your colleagues and supervisors just assume you will take charge of planning future events (talk about no good need going unpunished!).
In one office I worked in, a colleague just happened to know several local restaurant owners and in the blink of an eye he became our resident event organizer whether he wanted to be or not.
And it doesn’t even matter if you do a bad job (intentionally or unintentionally). Your office mates will be so glad that they don’t have to do anything but show up that they will happily defer the decision-making to you.
You Inevitably End Up Spending at Least Some of Your Own Money on the Event
Not being fully reimbursed is an aspect of being the office party planner that especially annoys me.
In my experience, the people planning the party are often more junior staff with the junior salaries to match. They want everything to be just right so they make the run to Target or (hopefully) the Dollar Tree to buy the matching plates or table decorations, and before they know it they are out $40-$50 (or more!).
I’ve also witnessed where the restaurant won’t split the check and so the planner will put it on their card and then have to go around the office begging people to pay them back. Even if they are able to collect from everyone, someone will inevitably cheap out on them, forgetting an appetizer or dessert they ordered.
More than once, I’ve contributed way more than I owed to make sure the planner was fully reimbursed. If you see this happen and are able to do so, I hope you will consider contributing more than you owe too.
Your Hard Work will not Result in a Promotion
“Both of the finalist are qualified, but you know, Sallie Mae planned that great party last year so we should choose her” said no one ever!
Excuse the sarcasm but I’m dead serious: I’ve never heard of anyone who knew for a fact—or even suspected—that their volunteering to plan an office party played a role in them being promoted.
Being the office party planner may be sold as an opportunity to show you are a team player, but you know what’s an even better way of illustrating this? Substantively contributing to the work of a team that is seeking to advance the company’s mission and increase the bottom line.
It is this investment of your time that conveys you have the capacity to be successful at the next level, and not the fact you are able to make a reservation, plan a game, or hang decorations from the ceiling.
If you enjoy planning parties and you have the time to do so, then please go ahead and volunteer. Just don’t do so because you think volunteering will help you land that next job.
What’s Your Experience?
I recognize that my experience and what I have observed may not be true in every field or with every employer. Has volunteering to be the office party planner benefited you? Let me know in the comment section below!
P.S. Want more career advice? Check on this post on Career Advice I Wish I’d Gotten In My 20’s.
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