To me, there’s a big difference between an end of season staff party and an end of the season banquet.
I like to plan and attend the banquet, I want a whole lotta nothin’ to do with the party!
Let me explain:
Is a wonderful way to end the season; coming together, reminiscing, laughing, and celebrating everything you’ve been through together in a thoughtful and intentional way is great.
Everyone gets dressed up, you give out staff awards – both funny and serious, I would usually write a funny poem all about the shenanigans of the summer and every staff member would get a copy along with the staff photo and the staff gift.
It’s also usually when we’d do our final secret friend gift, and the ACD would cook a nice meal (because I don’t/ shouldn’t be trusted to cook) we might also have a little splash of wine to make a toast to the summer.
It’s lovely and helps to end the summer on a real high note.
Now staff party on the other hand…
CAN be nice. Depending on what you do.
If you do something as a team like go on some sort of excursion, to an amusement park, or play laser tag, or rent a hot air balloon (that would actually be really neat) then ok, your staff party is awesome and I fully support it.
But in my experience, staff parties often devolve into a bunch of drunk 20 somethings saying and doing things I want nothing to do with.
Let me further explain…
Years ago (when I was still a counsellor) the seasonal camp director used to host the staff party at her cottage. It was lovely, and so generous of her. After our fancy banquet, all of the staff would pack a bag for the night and take our fancy dressed selves down her cute little rock path to her (parents) huge log cabin (house really, it can’t really be described as a cottage or a log cabin – it was quite large). Once we were there everyone would have a few drinks and it was super fun times – for 19-year-old me.
One year we decided to play a game called “first impressions”, which sounds like a fun mid-season team builder… but is a little dangerous when played by drunken co-staff who may have had a challenging summer.
Let’s just say some feelings were hurt, and lessons were learned (the lesson for me was to evacuate when slurry speakers start telling someone how they really feel.)
Then the NEXT year, I had moved onto a different camp, but the same director (now a good friend of mine) held the staff party again – but this time, the railing of the deck broke and one of the staff busted up his knee REALLY badly. It only took her a minute (while waiting for the ambulance to arrive) to realize that she had put herself – and the organization – at HUGE risk for a lawsuit by allowing her staff to drink on her premises (even though their contract had technically ended earlier that day). She decided in that moment that she would never host another staff party.
A few years later, I was at another camp learning new lessons… still as a camp counsellor.
We couldn’t all commit to the date that the last day of camp fell on, so we decided to have our staff party on the last session break.
Since most of the staff lived in the city and would be there anyway, we decided to go out to a nice fancy restaurant for our staff banquet/ party.
The tables were set out in a an L shape and I was sitting on the corner of the L.
The camp director was sitting to my left along the long side of the L, one person over from me.
On the short side of the L was a clique that had caused some trouble during the summer. But the banquet is all about celebration and focusing on the good, etc. etc. so I figured they wouldn’t be any trouble. OH how I was wrong.
They got into the drinks.
By mid-meal they were drunk. And saying TERRIBLE things about other people at the table, especially the director. Most of the other staff couldn’t hear them, but I was hearing every word.
I said a few times “hey guys, let’s just enjoy our meal, eh?” and similar things while trying not to draw attention to them – because they were being so rude, I was worried someone would hear and get their feelings really hurt.
At one point the ACD looked over at me and asked if I was ok, apparently I had an uncomfortable look on my face… I started to laugh.
Then I started to hyperventilate, then I had to excuse myself.
I had one of only two anxiety attacks in my life.
So there’s that.
As it turns out, most of the staff decided to go bar hopping after the meal – and the trouble makers decided to share their observations and opinions with the rest of the group.
And, since it was the last session break… we all had to go back to work with each other for another week. Talk about tension. Yikes!
The big take away for me that year was, never hold a staff party the week before camp ends.
And then, as a seasonal camp director I really wanted to have a staff party where no one was mean to anyone else, and we all just kicked back and had a good time. There were still some drinks but it would be fun and positive. And it was. No one was rude or mean to anyone, I banned any kind of “first impressions games” and life was grand.
Until the stories started.
See, here’s the thing you don’t realize as a counsellor. Part of the fun of staff party is having those “remember the time…” conversations, which are great, and mostly harmless but they’re not things you as the camp director necessarily want to hear about your staff.
So it was after that experience that I decided that staff party was not the place for me.
I can reminisce and bond with the staff at the banquet but the party is ALLLL theirs.
And let’s be real, no one wants to party with Old Lady Sampson anyway… lol
I remove myself from the planning.
And they’re not allowed to host their party on site.
I make two requests of them:
- That they wait until the season is over before having their staff party.
- That they make good choices and take care of each other.
I also let them know that if they get into trouble they can call me (that’s a year round thing though – and I have had many people reach out for help or guidance over the years).
Now, obviously they don’t have to listen to me – if they wanted to have a party on their break, there’s not a lot I could do about it. I just wouldn’t hire them back the next year. But so far it’s worked out well, everyone has been respectful of my requests.
What I Do Instead
Usually the ACD and I would do something fun together (she didn’t want to hear the stories either), we’d watch a camp movie and tell our own “remember when” stories.
What Do You Do?
Do you participate in your staff party?
Do you do something totally awesome with your staff outside of your banquet?
Tell me all about it in the comment section below.
And let’s connect on social media, you can find all of my links below – say hi!