How (Not) To Act At Your Holiday Office Party

“Your office party is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your coworkers on a personal level. So have a good time, but remember to be responsible.”

-Rose Caiola


5 tips to a successful holiday office party

It’s that time of year again! ‘Tis the season of shopping for hours on end, family gatherings, chestnuts roasting on an open fire…and holiday office parties.

Everybody has a story from last year’s office party. Of course we all start the night with the best intentions, but there’s at least one coworker who has a little too much to drink, another one who confesses her love to the guy she’s been crushing on and one who tells you his whole life story – all of them waking up hung over to see texts that say, “You won’t believe what you did last night.”

Your company’s annual holiday party is a great opportunity to connect with your coworkers on a personal level. So have fun, but at the same time, make sure to behave professionally.

Here are five work holiday party “don’ts”:

1. Don’t turn the party into a meeting

Remember that you are no longer in a business setting, so avoid discussing work topics. Whether you are mingling with a colleague or a supervisor, you should keep the conversation light and festive.

“Conversation about business and your professional role specifically should be kept to a minimum,” according to communication expert Dr. Patty Ann Tublin. “If you are asked about your work, keep your answer short and sweet – nobody wants to hear the specifics of anything you are doing; definitely don’t bore others with your achievements. Try to be authentic and compliment others – most people can pick out a phony person a mile away!”

2. Don’t get too personal

While it’s important to be friendly at a work party, be careful not to over-share. There are some things that should be kept private, such as the details of your painful breakup the week before.

So what topics of conversation are safe bets? Dale Winston, chairwoman and CEO of executive recruiting firm Battalia Winston suggests asking people about their holiday plans or other lighthearted questions about their lives. “People love to talk about themselves.”

Ben Peterson, co-founder and CEO of software company BambooHR, says gratitude is another foolproof conversation starter. “Say ‘thank you’ for any genuine reason you can think of. Thankyous and common courtesy are meaningful.”

3. Don’t gossip or bring up controversial topics

Even if you can’t think of anything to talk about, never resort to talking behind your coworkers’ backs. You may feel tempted to vent some work-related frustrations to your counterparts. Remember, a company social event is not the place to do it.

Diane Domeyer, executive director of staffing company OfficeTeam, says,“You never know who’s behind you in the buffet line or at the next table who might overhear your negative comments.”

Airing grievances at the holiday party is the fastest way to make enemies and potentially lose your job. Also, avoid discussing politics, religion and other hot-button issues.

4. Don’t drink too much

We all know our limits. When you are drinking socially, make sure to stay in control of your behavior. “There may be a free bar, and it can be very tempting to drink to get through the evening, but then our inhibitions slip and we say and do things we later regret.” according to career strategist Denise Taylor. “A real danger of drinking too much,” she explains, “is making a nuisance of our self with a colleague, to the extent that they see it as sexual harassment. It may be a Christmas party but you are still ‘at work.’”

Robin Abrahams, author of Miss Conduct’s Mind over Manners: Master the Slippery Rules of Modern Ethics and Etiquette, adds, “If you’re in a workplace where people do drink a lot, get something like a rum and Coke or gin and tonic for your first drink, then stick to plain Coke or tonic after that. This way no one will know how much you’re not drinking.”

5. Don’t look for a love connection

This isn’t happy hour. We’ve all heard that romantic “we met at work” story, but there’s a time and a place to look for love.

Jessica Merrell-Miller, a human resources expert says, “Female employees are often dressed to the nines, showing skin. Keep your eyes up and hands off at all costs. Don’t check that sexual-harassment training at the door, and remember to keep your conversation and compliments professional. You are on company time even if you are not clocked in.”

The office party isn’t a place to impress your new fling, either. “Don’t even think of bringing someone to the office party on a ‘first date!’ The pressure it puts on the relationship and the questions you’ll have to answer at work on Monday aren’t worth it,” according to Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, a psychologist and marriage and family counselor.

Overall, remember to put the emphasis on the office in office party. Have a good time, but be responsible and use this event as a chance to improve your business relationships. By avoiding these five holiday party faux pas, you’ll enhance your reputation at work and start the New Year off on a positive note.

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