Later today, I'm going to a low-key holiday gathering with the marketing group of one of my clients. I've worked with these folks for years, and really enjoy them. Last year's party was at a bowling alley; this year, it's at a venue where we all get to spend an hour or two painting. Piss-poor artist that I am, I'm not especially looking forward to the painting part, just as last year - piss-poor bowler that I am - I didn't exactly look forward to the bowling. Thankfully, I wasn't the worst bowler out there, so I didn't completely disgrace myself. And thankfully I didn't get invited to the overall company holiday bash of the dress-up and spouse sort.
Truly, one of the best things about being out of the corporate whirl is not having to put in an appearance at the holiday extravaganza. I've always liked the small group gatherings - lunch, Yankee Swap or whatever - and despised the dress up, slap on a smile, drag your spouse and make sure that the boss-men and boss-women see you there. (And do grab a bacon-wrapped scallop on the way out the door.) I've generally maintained that, given the choice of a couple hours off (or a $50 gift certificate) OR the company party, most would opt for the gift of time or money.
Although most of the corporate holiday parties I went to weren't all that blow-out, a number of them did cost quite a bit to put on.
But nothing that could apparently compare with the Yahoo! par-tay for 2015.
According to one irate hedge fund manager, who wants CEO Marissa Mayer gone-baby-gone, the company went out and spent $7M on a Roaring Twenties-themed employee party. (The $7M figure is, not surprisingly, disputed. One person claiming to be in the inside know claims that the cost was less than one-third this. Whether $7M or $2.3M, that's a lot of bathtub gin and flapper-ing. Assuming half of Yahoo's 12,500 employees are in the Bay Area, the upper figure would be over $1K per employee. Even the lower figure would be nearly $400 a pop. Then you have to figure that employees out in the hustings expected some serious partying for all their efforts during the year. It all adds up.)
I know that Silicon tech companies are known for their major (and, to me, majorly awful) bashes. And, admittedly, I'd rather sit around in a pile of ashes wearing a hairshirt, or hang with the poor little match girl freezing to death, than attend a Roaring Twenties themed corporate party with thousands of my colleagues. Still, this one sounds pretty awful and over-the-top.
Among the lavishments were the obligatory Rolls Royce; a gambling parlor where employees could play with fake money, with real winnings going to charity (okay, a decent touch); and aerialists pouring bubbly from champagne towers. (Who dreams this stuff up?)
In the articles I saw, these aerialists were described as wearing flapper garb. This looks more like Gay Nineties attire to me, not the sort of thing one would do the Charleston while wearing. Then again, I'm the sackcloth and ashes type myself.
There may well be a parallel universe out there where employees actually enjoy events like this. I've never worked in one, but I do acknowledge the possibility that they exist.
To me, one of the worst aspects of this party would have been the picture "opportunity" with Marissa Mayer. This sure has joy fest - and making a real connection with your employees - written all over it, doesn't it?
But you learn something new every day. I was not aware that pinto fur was associated with the Roaring Twenties. But I suppose when you're slugging down enough champagne poured by aerialists, you don't bother to criticize the details.
Anyway, with all the flak that Mayer's has taken lately about mismanagement and poor decisions, you'd think she'd have gotten the word out to her event planning staff that they might want to do something a bit more dignified this year. But maybe this is what her employees clamor for. Who knows?
And I guess the wretched excess of the Roaring Twenties is a more fun party concept than, say, a Depression-themed event, with all attendees issued shoes with holes in their soles, and fascistic strong men exhorting employees to make Yahoo great again.
In any case, I'm happy I wasn't expect to be there.
But I may have gotten some inspiration for this afternoon's art project...
Sources: Business Insider, Daily Mail, and my always-the-eye-out sister Trish.