Beware of Egg Nog: 15 Office Holiday Party Do’s and Don’ts

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

'Tis the season for office parties. It’s certainly a great chance to have fun with colleagues, but proceed with caution.

The holiday season brings with it a laundry list of traditions, including the office holiday party.

It’s certainly a great chance to let your hair down and see another side of your colleagues, but proceed with caution: a misstep can affect how you’re perceived among your co-workers come Monday morning.

That’s why we put together a list of the top 15 do’s and don’ts for you to follow in order to have a night that you’ll never forget for all the right reasons.

Related Article: HR Horror Stories: What’s the Absolute Worst Thing You Could Do on the Job?

Do: Accept the Invitation

Especially if you work at a smaller company or organization. Your co-workers will notice if you don’t make an appearance.

Don't: Overstay Your Welcome

Unless you maintain a regular rapport with your colleagues, then you shouldn’t stick around until the doors close. A 30-minute appearance is the bare minimum, but make sure to chat with everyone who should note your presence.

Office holiday party

Do: Take the Opportunity to Network

This is especially important for partygoers who are also interns or entry-level employees. Getting to know your co-workers at the party can help you achieve a permanent or higher position within the company – you never know what kind of conversation you’ll strike up with people you don’t know from other departments.

Don't: Talk Too Much About Yourself

Of course, networking is the perfect time to talk yourself up, but you shouldn’t dominate the conversation. Instead, follow the topics your colleagues bring up, listen to what they say and respond thoughtfully. That’ll make much more of an impression than a conversation that highlights the bullet points on your resume.

workers talking at holiday office party

Do: Let Loose, Conversation-Wise

You rarely get to chat and imbibe with your co-workers, which means you likely know them on a professional level only. The holiday party is a great chance to get to know them as people outside of the office walls. Knowing each other better will only boost the camaraderie you feel among your team come Monday morning.

Don't: Talk About the Office, Either

There’s a fine line between networking and sharing your workplace ideas and grievances. If you can’t do the former, then stick to casual, familiar conversation.

Do: Come Up With a Game Plan Before You Get There

Perhaps you need to set a limit of how many drinks you will have over the course of the evening, or you promise yourself you’ll stick to beer or wine. Whatever the plan may be, follow it: The threat of doing something regrettable is worth fighting, indeed.

drunk guy in Polaroids from Christmas party

Don't: Over-Do It With the Drinks

And definitely don’t drive if you’ve been drinking. Make a plan beforehand for how you will get home, and be sure to hand over your keys if you’ve had a few too many. A DUI charge will follow you much longer than an embarrassing story and be much more harmful to your career as well, so just don’t do it.  

Christmas pets eating people food

Don't: Treat Food as Fair Game, Either

Open bars and buffets can leave you looking like a glutton if you overdo it. Your co-workers will pretend not to notice, but if you end up taking the last of everyone’s favorite appetizer, heads may turn.

santa suit

Do: Have Fun With Your Outfit

You’re not going to work, after all: You can break free from the dress code that binds you each and every day. You can have fun with your hair and makeup, too, if that’s part of your routine.

Don't: Take Your Outfit Too Far

Unfortunately, this mostly applies to female employees getting dressed for the big event. You probably already have cocktail dresses or other outfits that you’ve worn to parties. Even though you’re heading to the office party, keep hemlines a bit longer and necklines higher. You can still have fun with what you wear, just keep it sensible.

couple dressed for the holidays

Do: Bring a Special Someone Along, if It’s Allowed

Party organizers will likely let you know upfront if you can bring a plus-one. Your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé or spouse is a great person to have by your side in case there are lulls in conversation. He or she will also give your colleagues a better idea as to who you are, especially when you’re not in the office.

Related Article: Why Company Culture Matters More to Employee Than Pay

Don't: Bring a Date Just for the Sake of It

Especially if it’s a blind date or acquaintance. You may already have the getting-to-know-you jitters around your co-workers. Prevent experiencing that twofold by bringing a loved one or flying solo.

inappropriate behavior at office holiday party

Don't: Get Too Friendly With a Co-Worker, Either

Work crushes happen, but the holiday party isn’t the right situation in which to act on them. If anything, chat him or her up and extend a casual invitation to grab coffee or drinks at another time.

Do: Keep Your Phone at Bay

We have a tendency to grab for our phones whenever humanly possible, especially when actual life hits a lull. By whipping your phone out every time you’re standing alone or experiencing a dry spell in conversation, you’re effectively closing yourself off from striking up a new conversation.

Don't: Forget to Say Thanks

This applies to the party organizers, the deep pockets who paid for it and the staff who ran the event. Your words go a long way, and the right ones could make an impression on someone of significance to you and your career.

Now you’re ready to take on this season’s holiday party without fear. Slip on a comfortable suit, grab yourself a glass of eggnog and get ready to talk your way into a better work life than you had yesterday.

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