Do's and Don't's of Holiday Office Parties

18:03 December 02, 2014

For most of you, the company holiday party season is around the corner. Here are the Do’s and Don’ts of company holiday party etiquette. If your company event is looming, this little guide may prove handy yet. But if you have already partied it up on your employer’s dime, hopefully you conducted yourself respectably. Keep this list around for next year, just in case.

1.  The cardinal rule of company holiday parties and also the most obvious is don’t drink too much. Never let them see you puke. No one likes the company lush. You don’t want to be the drunken idiot who has to be sent home in a cab before the hors d’oeuvres are even passed. Besides, things get dangerous when you lose total control in front of co-workers. People who work together should never twerk together. Just saying.

That said, do drink. If you want to. Your company probably spent a lot of dough on liquor, and you should definitely take advantage. Take something back for all the time and hard work you’ve put in. Help manage the company capital through consumption of inventory and resources. And with or without alcohol, you really should loosen up and have a good time. You don’t want to get a reputation around the water cooler as the lame-o tightwad who never has any fun. And while sloppy drunkenness usually causes trouble (see above), a good buzz can bring about more agreeable things. Like workplace hook-ups. Which leads us to number 2.

2.  Don’t sleep with your boss. Even if you think it sounds like a good idea to sleep your way to the top, these things have a way of backfiring. Maybe you are the type who finds authority sexy. So find a nice cop to date. Or a gym teacher. But keep your hands off your boss. It is far too complicated and almost never ends well. On a similar note, don’t sleep with your boss’s wife, either. Not a good path to job security.
But since office party hook-ups are bound to happen anyway, do choose wisely. If you must sleep with someone, make the best of the situation. Consider it a team-building exercise. Skip those touchy-feely trust-developing activities that some companies force you to participate in… no cheesy rope courses or blindfolded co-workers relying on you to guide them to safety in the name of interoffice camaraderie. Instead, go straight for the ultimate bonding experience. It’s sure to improve employee relations, if only for the night. So go ahead and bring home a life-sized goodie bag from the holiday shindig. You might get to blindfold a co-worker after all.

3.  Definitely do take part in the Secret Santa gift exchange. You get free stuff, after all, so what’s not to love? And all you have to do is pick up a tacky gift for a random stranger you don’t know well enough to shop for. But don’t be overly cheap (no regifting or dollar store bargains), overly generic (socks, journals, power tools and bath salts tend to be boring) or overly personal (anything battery-operated or lace-trimmed is probably inappropriate, except when useful for number 2 above). Be sensitive. Things like self-help books, personal hygiene items of any sort and gym memberships have the potential to be taken the wrong way. Gift cards are great, but remember that they are equivalent to leaving the price tag on your present. Everyone is going to know how much you spent, so you’ll have to spend more to avoid looking like a cheapskate.

4.  Do schmooze. Get chummy with your managers. Chat up your boss over a few beers. What better time to hit him up for that promotion, or a big raise, than when he is liquored up and impressionable. But also, do censor your conversations. Don’t talk about taboo topics. Religion and politics and sometimes football are controversial and therefore off-limits. Sex is a no-no in this particular forum, and body parts should be left unmentioned...unless in the context of workplace-induced carpal tunnel syndrome. The whole office has seen the adorable family photos pinned up in your cubicle, and that’s great. But don’t go on for hours about your amazing children’s feats of wonder. Nor give drawn-out, detailed descriptions of little Chloe’s bout with a stomach virus. No one wants to hear that while stuffing their face at the sushi bar. Family holiday cookie recipes and HGTV are always safe bets as topics of conversation.

5.  Every holiday party usually involves some sort of a take-home gift or trinket—your employer’s futile attempt to pay tribute to all your hard work. So just take what you can get and gratefully accept it. Don’t complain about your company’s giveaway. Naturally you’d rather have a holiday bonus of a more fiscal variety, but don’t look a gift boss in the mouth. Whether it’s a voucher for ham, a motivational coffee mug, or a case of bananas, be happy you got anything at all. Of course a koozie with the company logo is never going to compensate for the blood, sweat and tears you’ve shed for your job, but suck it up and be appreciative. Do hug your boss for the great party. Thank him for the opportunity to work for such a fine establishment. And take your cheap-o pen set and run.

6.  Don’t be difficult. Don’t send the hors d’oeuvres back to be recooked or special-order food from the buffet (“Can I get those cocktail wienies with a gluten-free bun?”). Similarly, don’t order labor-intensive mojitos or fancy craft cocktails at an open bar. It’s obnoxious, mean to the bartender and makes you look pretentious and snooty. (However, Jägerbombs are probably not a very professional alternative at a company function, even if you are trying to bond with the guys). There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best, but you have to pick your battles. And while vegan crab cakes might sound like a good idea at the time, wouldn’t you rather hold out for that corner office?

7.  To sum it up, the bottom line is: Don’t embarrass yourself. Don’t bring a shady or promiscuous date as a plus-one, unless you’re married to them, in which case you have no choice. Do bring a dish to pass for a potluck dinner. Don’t dress like a slut. Do keep it tasteful. No cleavage-revealing tops or super short, booty-showing dresses. Anyone who looks at your asset portfolio by day probably isn’t interested in looking at your ass by night. (Unless, of course, number 2 applies. See above). Do be careful what you request the DJ to play. There’s nothing wrong with rockin’ out to the soundtrack of Annie when you’re home alone, but quirky musical tastes are sometimes better left outside the office. The entire accounting department doing the Electric Slide or the Cupid Shuffle is just awkward. Also, don’t make a pig of yourself. We all love a good dessert buffet, but don’t overdo it and load up three plates full, either. Your co-workers will make snide remarks about your piggishness, and then make inappropriate fat jokes behind your back. And they’ll never again let you know when there are donuts in the conference room. Now that’s a hard-knock life.

8.  And finally, don’t call in sick the next day. It doesn’t matter if you really did get carjacked by aliens on the way home from the party, spent the night in the police station filling out paperwork, then suddenly came down with strep throat, all while having an unexpected family emergency, and then got stuck in traffic (once you got your car back from the carjackers). No one is going to believe you anyway. And unless you can get a doctor’s note for a hangover, you’d better plan on showing up for work. Pack some ibuprofen and a gallon jug of water and suffer through the day. At least you know you won’t be alone. Plenty of the staff will be sharing your pain. Misery loves company, and the day after the holiday party everyone at your company is sure to be miserable.

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