A close friend of mine is the sales team leader for an advertising agency. She’s a strong, intelligent businesswoman who happens to be in charge of a group of all men. We’re just going to call my friend Sarah, to keep her out of trouble and to save the reputations of her team. You’ll figure out why in a minute.
So Sarah stepped in to her position at the top of the team without ever working in the company sales force. It created a small bit of resentment from her employees, but that anger has faded over time. More than anything, she’s earned her team’s respect, and she’s proud of that. In general, Sarah says that managing men isn’t too different from managing women and she tends not to think about gender issues, instead concentrating on the personality dynamics of her employees. But there was one confrontational moment that made Sarah yearn for a team of professional, ambitious women. It all centered around her company Christmas party.
Sarah’s company gives a large, swanky holiday celebration every year. It’s a company tradition, filled with extravagant gifts and all the booze you can drink. And Sarah’s team had their own tradition, a pre-party visit to a local strip club. Now you see why we aren’t naming them. I don’t want emails from angry wives. These adult, professional men go stare at strippers, take shots and show up to their company Christmas party covered in glitter and completely trashed. Needless to say, Sarah was not thrilled with holiday routine.
But is it really a manager’s place to police her employees’ behavior at the office party? After all, they were perfectly welcome to make fools of themselves. That doesn’t mean that Sarah is a bad manager, it simply shows that her team likes to… have a good time. Yea, let’s go with that. Sarah rationalized and excused their behavior. She suffered through two holiday parties, embarrassed and a little disgusted by her team’s antics.
Finally, approaching her third Christmas season, she was fed up. She couldn’t sit through hours of slurring speech and suspicious smells. She didn’t want to hear tales of their completely inappropriate adventures. What these men did on their own time was fine. What they brought to the company Christmas party was her business, even if it was just the stench of desperation.
Sarah started out confronting the most reasonable and level-headed member of her team. She explained her gripe and suggested that the team move their extra-curricular partying to after the company party. They could still have their fun, they just wouldn’t need to be semi-incoherent at the corporate-sponsored event. Her employee wasn’t having it though, “Our wives would wonder where we are after the party. That’s why we go before.” Unless they were bathing before they went home, Sarah had a hard time believing that these men were fooling their wives.
She thought long and hard about how to approach her team about their behavior. She schemed and plotted, wrote notes and debated. She knew that she would be insulting their tradition and possibly crossing the line on personal issues. But at the same time, she was tired of their glares of disapproval from higher-ups as her team’s shenanigans got louder and more offensive.
Finally, Sarah decided to do what she does best. She treated it like any other work problem that needed direction. After all, the company party is a work function. And her teams behavior at said party was unacceptable. She called a meeting, looked these grown men in the eye and told them, “It’s time to grow the fuck up, gentlemen.” And ya know what? That’s all she had to say.
Her team might not have liked the order, but they knew that it was her’s to give. They may have been whiny and grumpy at that next party, but they could walk a straight line. And Sarah may have overstepped her bounds, but she was finally able to enjoy her own holiday get-together without cringing every time one her intoxicated team hugged her a little too long.