BOFH: The Christmas party was so good, an independent inquiry is required

So ... time for round 2?

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 24 "Mistakes were made," I admit, feigning remorse.

"You're bloody right mistakes were made," the Boss snaps. "I was insulted, I had my office vandalized ..."

"Let's not get tied up in details about who got called a poorly shaved orangutan or who set whose desk on fire, and take some lessons from the experience."

"Lessons like?" the Boss demands.

"I think the main one was providing staff with vast quantities of alcohol several hours before the food turned up."

"Yes, there was rather a lot of alcohol," the Boss admits.

"My fault. I got a decimal place wrong – but on the plus side the liquor wholesaler has agreed to invoice us 20 copies of Office 2010, so we can put it against the software budget and claim it as backwards compatibility."

"I don't think Finance will accept that," the Boss queries.

"It was one of the Beancounters who suggested it," the PFY replies.

"Was it the same guy who set my desk on fire?"

"You did tell him that Excel was just a glorified calculator …"

"So what other damage are we looking at?" the Boss asks.

"The building-wide treasure hunt was ill-advised," I admit.

"Particularly when there was no treasure," the PFY adds. "It may have been unwise to suggest that Forest Fenn used to work here and might have hidden stuff in the walls."

"On the plus side, though, it looks like several parts of the building will get a fresh paint job!"

"This isn't good," the Boss counters.

"Like I said, it was irresponsible for the company to supply so much alcohol so early in the day. Without food."

"What do you mean the company? YOU supplied it."

"And who do I work for?"

"That's not the company's fault. The company didn't know you were going to do that."

"The company PAID for it – well, the board members anyway. Frankly, putting me in that position – with my record – was a serious oversight."

"It was a breach of trust," the PFY adds. "It's a duty of care issue!"

"No, this is an HR issue and I'm obliged to refer it to them."

"By 'them' do you mean the HR guy that helped the Beancounter set fire to your desk, or one of the HR guys who reckoned that overproof rum wasn't flammable?"

"So what do we do?" the Boss whines.

"The answer's obvious. We launch an independent inquiry about the party."

"An independent inquiry?"

"Yeah, we'll get the PFY to do it."

"He's not independent!"

"Course he is. He didn't send the party email out."

"No, you did," the Boss says.

"Actually, you did. You emailed from your own desktop. Which is why we tell you to lock your workstation when you go to the bathroom."

"I …"

"Obviously, the PFY will be intentionally vague. He'll never actually nail one person to the cross of responsibility, but he will find some serious flaws in the company's culture, which the company will agree to address immediately. I'll be given a whistleblower's bonus for highlighting this looming potential human safety crisis, and the company will move on."

"No," the Boss shakes his head. "No one will go for that!"

"Of course they will – because the only other option would be to name names. This way, I can admit I should have realized the seriousness of the situation, and possibly heeded the advice of security professionals – especially when someone threw that inkjet printer out the window …"

"HE threw the inkjet printer out the window," the Boss interrupts, "and it barely missed me."

"But I did my level best to stop things getting out of hand," I continue. "I will freely admit that some of my decisions were creatively useless. But let's not forget: no one got hurt."

"And it would be different if someone got hurt?"

"Depending on the person, yes. You've got to understand the optics of this. Here, we're a company coming back from 'near tragedy' and implementing some very inexpensive workplace operating procedures for the benefit and safety of all. Think about it: if you give the procedures a fancy name and start expounding the virtues of them to other companies as a plan of increasing workplace safety throughout the country – well, you could probably get a K out of it in five or so years."

"It'll never fly – and I'll not support you getting a bonus."

"So instead you'd opt for a trial by media. Who do you think would win that one? You, with your annual subscription to Trainlovers Monthly, or the PFY, with his cornucopia of carefully cultured hard-drinking media contacts?"

"I …"

"That's right – not you."

"I …"

"So I think it's best for everyone if we just let this party inquiry get under way …"

"I suppose …"

Anyway, we can't stop – it's 1030 and we have to open the bar."

"What?" the Boss gasps.

"Well, there's still quite a bit of alcohol left over from yesterday," I explain.

"And it would be irresponsible of us to just leave it laying around for someone with poor impulse control to find," the PFY adds.

"You can't!"

"You did."


"The email you sent out about 15 minutes ago with the subject ROUND TWO."

"I …"

"Oh, and we left an extinguisher in your office after that comment in your email about how flammable your bookshelf probably is – and that Forest Fenn used to work in your office. OH! And uh …"


"Merry Christmas."

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