I've often said (and I may have said so here already, but I'm too lazy to go check) that I can map the decline and fall of the morale in my old department based on the holiday celebrations.
We used to have a party in someone's house. We'd get all dressed up for it. There'd be food--potluck, but being a college town, it was funky potluck. Mexican hot chocolate, olivada and crusty French bread, curried chick peas, things like that. There would be music--Jimmy would bring his keyboard, Max his guitar, and those of us who could would sing along with whatever they played. People's kids would run around and play together. There was a gag gift exchange.
Then one year the gift exchange was dropped, as it was deemed "silly." The next year the instruments stayed home. The one after that instead of an evening in someone's home it was lunch out somewhere one day during the work week. Then a few years later it was a potluck in the staff room. Then it was cookies by the coffee pot. Then it was bagels at the staff meeting, and bring your own coffee.
Since the department split into two, the one group has revived the go-out-to-lunch thing. The other, the one I worked for until I moved to where I am now, holds a luncheon in their staff room. It's semi-potluck, meaning they all cook but guests from outside the department don't. They invite a lot of people, and most of them come. This group does know how to throw a party, I'll say that for them. If I had never worked there I might actually want to go. As it is, I notice things that make me uncomfortable:
- The people they invite are generally people who can do things for them: deans, associate deans, department heads, people in other departments with whom who they think they have "special relationships."
- The conversation always wends its way around to work somehow. They always have an agenda, an angle, are looking for information and a way to push what they want forward.
- They may be friendly and chatty with their guests, but they don't have much to say to each other. If you see them all together and they don't know you're there, they all sit silently munching, their eyes on their plates or the floor.