Farewell, not Sartrean hell!

Quite often at social workplace events, such as a farewell, there exists a phenomenon called Sartrean hell.

Jean-Paul Sartre was an existential philosopher who believed that hell was a silent room where a circle of people were unable to look away from each other’s eyes.

Seem familiar?

So how do we avoid collective social awkwardness, without showing poor etiquette?

The following tips below should help:

Play music.

This way the background noise should make people feel more comfortable, so that if anyone starts a conversation, it's not like breaking wind in an elevator.

Talk about the Food.

This is a great ice-breaker.

People often stare at the Food awkwardly, waiting for the first person to break the ice and make a move, so that Eating can begin.

To remove this tentativeness, hover over the Food making conversation about what to have first, or eat something straightaway and talk about how good it is, or ask who made it and what went in it.

You can go straight for the Food, or for a cup of tea, as soon as you enter the room, making a joke or small talk about how you're looking forward to Cake etc.

Sometimes a lack of table manners has people laughing.

If you have baked Cakes, get people who are milling around to help you ice them.
Group interaction will make the atmosphere more comfortable.

Ok, I'm freaking out. 

Just give me an exit strategy.

Structure a small event to break the ice.

This requires someone who is more outgoing.

Some examples include organising a small free raffle – such as who gets to have the leaver’s mug/stapler/pot plant – make some noise about getting people to put their names in the hat.

Or get the person leaving to throw a paper airplane or a scrunched paper ball (eyes closed, after turning around three times clockwise and anti-clockwise) – whoever it hits is the next one to leave the company, a twist on the bridal bouquet-toss.

This is especially funny in industries with high turnover, but maybe not in a recession!

Get some extra help with party tips for work.

Over the long term, have your workplace practise its social interactions by having regular, group morning teas.

Try having ‘penalty Cake’ - certain mistakes required Cake payment to the group.

Come the time for a farewell the atmosphere will be a lot better, and so will workplace morale.

Remind me why we do farewells?

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