JLU: Junior Lawyers' Union

Asserting the rights of junior lawyers, who have much more power than they realise.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Christmas minefield

It's Christmas party season and, all around the Jesus/Santa-worshipping world, law firm employees are getting drunk and telling each other what they really think of one another.

As a general rule, whether this involves "You knowwww, I've always secretly rooly loiked youuu" or "Jusht becaushhh you're faaat and ug-ly, doesn't mean you havta be a BITCH as well", in the cold hard light of the following day, discretion would almost certainly have proven the better part of valour. This is one area where truth offers little defence.

Actions that may have appeared heroic after an evening of having your glass regularly topped up will almost invariably not seem so clever when you find yourself staring at the object of your affection/loathing at your weekly workgroup meeting on Monday morning.

Leaving aside the vitriolic side of things for the time being, there is a genuine question here. Since hitting on your workmates is a clear and distinct no-no, what do you do when you have spent the entire year lusting after someone you work with?

Those of us without superhero good looks may easily be tempted to view the Christmas party, where everyone (including the colleague you've spent all year checking out) lets go of their inhibitions, as the opportunity to make our feelings known. Of course, when this ends in rejection, you've ruined everyone's night. And possibly just committed sexual harassment.

This can hit pretty hard and I imagine that Friday nights in December are peak season for suicide watch on the Harbour Bridge or the West Gate. I distinctly remember one colleague storming out of an after-party, cursing girls generally and threatening (albeit in jest) to top himself.

Then again, sometimes the only thing worse than being rejected is not being rejected. Apart from the standard morning-after "Oh no... I did what with who?" that I associate more with being a teenager, the workplace Christmas party offers the potential for a whole new dimension of regret.

Consequently (and in order to protect their own arses from sexual harassment liability), in recent years, firms have adopted the practice of sending around sexual harassment "reminder" emails in the days leading up to the firm Christmas party.

Back when I was a vacation clerk, on the morning of the firm Christmas party, an office-wide email came around "on behalf of" the Managing Partner from his secretary, gently turning our minds to the sexual harassment policies and suggesting everyone "look out for one another".

As things transpired, one interpretation of events later that evening is that the (married) Managing Partner and his (married) secretary were closely "looking out for one another" on the sticky dance floor of the after-party bar. Nice work.

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Blogger Legal Eagle said...

I heard about that Managing Partner. I think he had to stand down.

Lots of free booze and partying with workmates is just a recipe for disaster. After a few occasions as a seasonal clerk where I had terrible headaches and terrible regrets about my actions the day after, I decided I would not ever get drunk at a work function again. Tipsy, yeah, but drunk, no.

I have a tendency to speak my mind even when I have not consumed alcohol. Add alcohol into the mix and you get disaster!

15 December, 2006 18:37  
Blogger Shop Steward said...

I don't know what became of him but, suffice to say, I know he's no longer Managing Partner of the firm in question. So you may well be right.

Drinking at work events causes me to abandon my "firm face", ie. my faux work smile. So, like you, the truth starts to come out. If I'm bored, I look bored. If I want to be elsewhere, I'm looking over the shoulder of the partner who's talking earnestly to me.

15 December, 2006 22:25  

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