The end of the calendar year is approaching, and so is that time-honored tradition, the holiday office party. While there may be good food and spirits flowing at the annual bash, this is not the time to cut loose and get footloose with bosses and co-workers looking on. Veterans of holiday parties past know this (well, most do), but for those of you just entering the workforce or starting your career, listen up.
The potential downside of attending the holiday office party looms large—with drink involved, it seems the sky is the limit for the number of ways an employee can get himself or herself into trouble. A sloppy unrequited embrace at the punch bowl, a little too much honesty in response to a loaded question (“what do you think about Helen in accounting?”), the veil of office romance inadvertently lifted to reveal a forbidden liaison (“Where is Helen, anyway?”). Thoughts and feelings often kept under healthy, prudent wrap in the safety of the office seem to run amok at these events.
Given all the landmines, why not just skip the office party entirely? Because the upside is, you are there. If your boss is counting heads, as bosses often do, you will be viewed as the consummate team player. If you want to build some relationships at the office, networking is one of the benefits of after-hours assemblages. And let’s face it, if something interesting actually does happen, you’ll be there to witness it firsthand.
Remember, this is an office event, so technically anything that happens at the office party doesn’t stay at the office party—it becomes a part of your personnel file. So below are a few dos and don’ts to help you maneuver through the holiday office party and come out whole on the other side:
Don’t wear any of those articles of clothing that your dress code disallows in the office. If it’s too high, too low, or too tight, save it for the after-party party.
Do feel free to gussy up and get into the spirit of the event. If it’s shiny, lights up, or involves yarn sculpture, wear it with gusto.
Don’t enjoy six glasses of wine. The No. 1 contributing factor to my robust post-holiday employee mediation business is alcohol. (On second thought, never mind.)
Do enjoy a glass of wine or a drink if it pleases you. Just beware of those co-workers who cajole, “Just one more won’t hurt,” if that is the one that will put you in your cups.
Don’t twerk on a tabletop with a lampshade on your head. Not only will you miss the disapproving glare from the boss’s spouse, you may actually fall on top of him.
Do dance on the dance floor with just enough flare to inspire a good-natured competition with the top team from sales.
Don’t use the party as an opportunity for one-on-one time with your boss to discuss the latest revision to your unit’s strategic plan. She doesn’t want to talk shop in competition with the festivities, and besides, she’s too busy making sure her spouse isn’t crushed by the lampshade-masked maniac twerking on the tabletop.
Do make sure you find time to say hello to everyone who matters and share a positive message about each person’s past accomplishments or your anticipation of the good things to come in the New Year. Remember that sometimes the people who matter most are the administrative team members who support your success.
If you keep your wits about you and maintain a jovial but steady presence, the holiday office party has the potential to boost your reputation and expand your network. Who do you want to be? The ambassador of your department spreading good will across the organization and, by the way, cutting a fine rug with the new director of marketing? Or the unfortunate party animal sporting day-after stitches and a concussion, the result of a nasty fall from that tabletop?
Assuming you take the road more suavely traveled, have fun and enjoy the good cheer of the season!