While most of the rest of us are dusting off classic cocktail recipes or weighing the relative merits of various kinds of stuffings, the Associated Press has a different agenda. The venerable press group is apparently assembling a team of experts determined to suck whatever tiny spark of joy might still remain within that once-great and now-battered tradition: the American holiday office party.

Running under the banal headline “Small Businesses Can Avoid Holiday Party Problems with Careful Planning,” the AP story is a modern buzz-kill manifesto, a spear of paranoia and repression plunged into the heart of holiday joy.

Beware! it suggests. If you have a party, employees might drink! And then they’ll kill someone while driving drunk and you’ll be sued! It’ll be bad PR! Or, God forbid, someone might sexually harass someone else! Or have some kind of fun! OOOOOH BOOGITY BOOGITY OOO!

The story’s embrace of spirit-killing cubicle culture goes pretty much like this:

1. Have a cash bar.

If you’re worried that employees will see you as being cheap for making them pay for their own drinks, [joyless bastard and attorney Jonathan] Segal recommends donating to charity an amount of money equal to what guests paid for drinks.

Well, that’s splendid. Your underpaid employees have to spend their own money to enjoy their own holiday party, but at least it’s going to a charity of their employer’s choosing. Whee! This is almost as fun as giving out “drink tickets” and then cutting everyone off, another idea showcased by the story.

2. Make sure there are “party managers.”

They’ll be on the lookout for someone who’s had too many, and they’ll also be on the lookout for any kind of behavior that’s sexually harassing.

Yeah! Rock out with your cock out, corporate America! Now we’re having fun.

3. Have a daytime party.

Amy James, CEO of sixThings, a New York-based curriculum management company, said that while a daytime party does cut into the work day, ‘it is worth the lost hours because no one is concentrating on work on the afternoon of a party anyway.’

Yes, and God forbid us from being distracted during the holiday season, one of the only bright moments in an otherwise spirit-crushing parade of work interrupted by increasingly rare moments of vacation.

4. Kill the party entirely.

[A] traditional party isn’t the only way to go—for example, the staff could work together for a few hours at a charitable organization, and have food while they’re there.

Sounds like a HOOTENANNY! Maybe the staff could shovel the boss’s driveway for a few hours and then shuffle past a stack of Oscar Mayer cold cuts on their way back to the office.

While there’s no doubt that we should encourage the practice of designating sober drivers and work to minimize the number of drunken employees falling down stairwells, whatever happened to the presumption that adult colleagues can enjoy themselves once in a while? Like maybe just once a year?

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