One of the most anticipated events of the year, the office holiday party is an American workplace tradition that not only celebrates the season but also a full year of hard work. You can let down your guard, socialize and flaunt your winning personality outside of the office, but you can also meet higher ups, network and even wind up with a promotion down the line. Needless to say, making even the tiniest mistake could have consequences for the rest of your career (no pressure!). Here’s what to do (and not do) to successfully navigate your annual holiday office party.
Do: Show up
First thing’s first: go to your office party. It might seem intimidating and often awkward (nothing is worse than being unavoidably stuck in conversation with Bob from accounting), but there are amazing benefits. It’s a great opportunity for networking, getting to know colleagues you always pass in the hallway and a solid way to build relationships. Employees often get ostracized for not going, so show your bosses you’re a dependable team player. And, if that still doesn’t sway you, did we mention open bar and catered food?
Don’t: Casually hook up
While hooking up at the office party can be the most memorable moment of the event, actions can lead to consequences down the line. Hooking up with an office mate has possible disastrous consequences, especially if alcohol is involved, and it could later affect the workspace. If you do make a connection with someone that gets intimate, plan for an actual date in the future. Otherwise, if you do hook up at the holiday office party, keep it seriously discrete.
Do: Dress appropriately
Most holiday party dress codes are casual but still smart. You don’t want to be the most underdressed or overdressed. Find out the dress code (which is usually noted in the invitation), and dress the part, even if it’s a themed party (like “ugly sweater”). Don’t know how to dress? Think about what you typically wear to work and feel free to give it a holiday spin (like a Christmas tie or a red and green blouse). If you’re the boss throwing the event, set a standard with a nicer than normal outfit and remember to set the dress code in the invitation. Nobody –whether the event host or an attendee — wants to feel uncomfortable at the event with the wrong attire, nor do they want to be remembered as making a fashion faux paus.
Don’t: Talk politics or religion or work
While you want to get to know your colleagues, you can often strike a sour chord with certain subject matter. Limit or fully avoid more personal conversations that could get heated. It’s also a good idea to avoid talk about work. This isn’t the time or place to vent about the project you’re working on – who knows who may be listening. The holiday office party is a social affair where people just want to have a good time and think about some much-needed time off for the holidays. Ask team members about their family, their holiday plans, their hobbies, etc.
Do: Put away your cell phones!
Nothing is more annoying when you’re directly speaking to someone who is checking their emails on their phone. Colleagues and bosses will find it off-putting when you find technology more important than a casual conversation, so avoid scrolling through Facebook. If you really need to tweet, send a status update or upload photos, just do it when you’re not in conversation.
Don’t: Stick to only colleagues you work with
Take full advantage to meet and socialize with colleagues you don’t know. The benefits are overwhelming, especially if you chat up executives who will remember you for that promotion or members of a different department you occasionally work with. There’s no better time to network and put faces to names, and knowing people on a personal level is advantageous.
The Ultimate Don’t: Get wasted
It almost goes without saying, but just in case you needed a reminder about office party etiquette 101, remember to control your alcohol consumption. Everyone at the party is there to have fun, but don’t forget that these are your colleagues, not your drinking buddies. Once you start to feel a bit beyond buzzed, casually switch to something non-alcoholic like water or soda. After all, no one wants to go through the walk of shame in front of an office full of co-workers.