Have fun, but don’t get too wild.Stephanie Keith / Stringer / Getty Images
- If you plan to attend an office holiday party this year, keep in mind that it’s still a work event.
- One of the biggest mistakes you can make is drinking too much.
- You should also avoid too much business talk.
‘Tis the season — for your office’s annual holiday party.
Here’s hoping your bash is merry and bright. But, before you put on your Santa hat and go to town, just remember these kinds of wintery events are inherently risky. Mixing booze, coworkers, and the stress of the holiday season can be truly volatile.
So, take steps to avoid humiliating yourself at this year’s festivities. The night could be fun … or it could mutate into an evening of drunken disaster.
It all depends on your attitude.
Here are 17 tips to make sure your office holiday party is a definitive success.
But don’t show up perfectly on time
Even if the party takes place at the office, Drew Magary at GQ advises you go home after work, then come back.
If you can’t do that, just continue working until you see that 75% of your colleagues have turned on their holiday mode. Magary wrote: “You know who shows up on time? That one creepy lady who works in human resources who you never talk to. Now it’s just you two, standing there while the DJ spins ‘Gangnam Style.'”
Ask about the dress code ahead of time
You need to find out what the dress code is and stick to it, career coach Barbara Pachter previously told Business Insider.
Pachter, the author of “The Essentials of Business Etiquette,” said you don’t want people talking about what you wore the day or night after the party. Whatever you wear, remember that it’s still a business event.
Use the party as an opportunity to meet people you don’t already know
Especially in a large company, you’ll likely see people at the party that you don’t normally have a chance to interact with. Maybe they work on a different floor from you, or in a different team.
Workplace expert Lynn Taylor told Business Insider that you might consider creating a goal to speak to at least three new people, or another metric that’s easily reached but ensures you step out of your comfort zone.
“Ask open-ended questions as you chat with people, so the conversation flows, and isn’t a ping-pong match,” Taylor said.
Feel free to approach senior leadership, too
The holiday party is a great chance to say hello to senior leadership who you might not typically interact with.
Wickre said to keep the interaction brief and cheery.
Try: “I just want to thank you for a great year, and let you know that I love working here. I’m so excited about next year and what you’re doing.”
Don’t go on an empty stomach
Yes, you’re going for the free canapés, but you should still eat at least a little bit before the party begins.
Being too busy to mingle because you’re chowing down dozens of mini-sandwiches isn’t really the best recipe for inter-office networking. And, if you plan to drink, you might get more intoxicated than you intended if you’re attending on an empty stomach.
Don’t explicitly conduct business
In other words, don’t ask about that new position opening up or if you’re eligible for a raise. It’s tacky.
Since it’s an office event, it’s obvious that some business-related conversations will come up, but don’t come to the party with an agenda, Helene Wasserman, an attorney for the international labor and employment law firm Littler, previously told Business Insider.
On the flip side of things, avoid gossiping about your coworkers, too.
And don’t talk politics, either
Politics, religion, race relations, and so on shouldn’t be discussed at the work party.
“It might be the ‘low hanging fruit’ given all the headlines lately, but try to steer clear of getting on a soapbox, unless you feel you’re in safe territory – or it can get awkward fast,” Taylor said.
Be sensitive to different religious affiliations
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Your coworkers might not be celebrating the same holiday you do. Play it safe by simply wishing them an inclusive “Happy holidays!”
Know your drinking limit
“Seem like a good way to loosen up?” Taylor said. “Don’t do it. It’s a bad way to make a first impression.”
You need to prepare yourself ahead of time by setting guidelines, whether that’s one or two drinks max.
Taylor said indulging in more than a few drinks might be a good way to combat any shyness or nervousness you might have about the party, but it’s better to be a little introverted than to make a total fool of yourself.
Don’t get romantic with another employee
Avoid public displays of affection, even if you’re seeing someone in the office.
“If you are dating someone at the company and still keeping it a secret, this is not the time to start dancing romantically, because then everyone will know,” Pachter said.
It’s also not the time to try to make a move on a coworker you’ve been crushing on, or to start trying to woo an employee you’re meeting for the first time.
“Don’t embarrass somebody by going up to them and asking them to dance unless you’re sure they will say yes,” Pachter said.
Loosen up a bit
Obviously, you don’t want to loosen up to the point where you’re plastered, yelling at your office nemesis, or generally embarrassing yourself in front of people. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to relax a bit.
“Pretend you’re at a friend’s party,” Taylor said. “While this is a time for professionalism, it’s supposed to be fun, not torture. If you can remind yourself of that, it should take some pressure off.”
Don’t be the last one to leave the party
It might be a festive event, but don’t make a name for yourself as the company’s party animal. Also, try to stop drinking an hour before you leave, said Wasserman.
If you become too intoxicated, find a cab immediately.
Don’t go to the third venue
Some of your coworkers may want to go out after the party ends, and if you’ve been controlling your alcohol intake, feel free to go and mingle with your colleagues.
However, a few drinks later, if someone suggests a third venue, don’t go.
Why? By the time you make it to that third venue, the vibe has changed. It’s no longer the “happy hour” crowd. It’s now the “let’s rage” crowd.
At this moment — as a working adult — you need to make a choice. The moment your colleagues see you in a compromising position, they will likely view you differently. Is that a risk you want to take?
Make sure you say goodbye to people
If you don’t say your goodbyes, it will make it look like you snuck out for some reason. You can also make a point of going up to the people who organized the party and thanking them for doing such a great job.
Make it to work the next day
This is even more crucial if you get intoxicated at the party. Everyone will know why you didn’t show up to work the next day — including your boss.
Brian Moylan at Gawker wrote: “You have to go to work the next day. If you don’t, everyone will know why, and they will sit around and talk about your bad behavior the night before twice as much. If you’re there, they have to sneak around and do it behind your back, which will cut down on the office gossip by at least 50%. You’re already in trouble, don’t make it worse.”
This post is an updated version of a story originally written by Vivian Giang and Aaron Taube.