Career Advice

Do’s & Don’ts: The Office Holiday Party

With office holiday parties just around the corner, workers are wrestling with that age-old question: do you let loose at the holiday party, or do you treat it as an extension of a day in the office? Your workplace environment and position within the company will dictate some of that, but one thing is for sure, the holiday office party isn’t a place to gorge at the buffet, get sloppy drunk or hook up with a colleague.

“It’s got to be about moderation,” says Dan Andrews, the Human Resources Manager for Allison+Partners, an international communications firm. “People want to cut loose because it’s a festive time but you are at a work function, so you always have to keep that in mind.”

The Do’s:

If you like your job and plan to work there for a while, then it’s a good idea to attend the office party even if it’s only for an hour or so. If you are sick or going on vacation it’s one thing, but if you are blowing it off for no good reason, it’s a big no-no.  “Not showing up, unless you have a legitimate excuse, makes you look like you don’t care,” says Vinda Rao, the marketing manager at Bullhorn, a recruitment software company.

According to Patricia Rossi, a business etiquette coach, arrive early and ask whoever put the party together if he or she needs any help. “The person that put it together knows everybody, and no one else is making that kind of gesture. It echoes in the office, up and down the ladder,” says Rossi. Once the party is over, send that same person a thank you note. You may be tempted to send an email, but don’t. Mailing a hand written thank you note will show you made the effort and genuinely mean it.

Since the holiday office party is a rare opportunity to network and make connections with people in you organization you normally don’t have access to, make sure to capitalize on the opportunity. Career experts say you should go armed to the party with good conversation starters, and an idea of who you want to connect with at the party. Doing a little research on the person or people you have your sights on will ensure you’re not blowing your limited time with them discussing the weather or making a comment that could offend them. “It’s an opportunity to build your brand and build your worth inside the company,” says Rossi.

The Don’ts:

The holidays are a festive time, but that doesn’t mean you have to get rip-roaring drunk to have a good time. Career experts say that if you must drink at the office party, limit it to one drink. After all you don’t want to be the one everyone is gossiping about the next day because you got too drunk or worse yet got behind the wheel smashed. “If you have to have a drink have only one because you don’t want to make a mistake,” says Rossi. “Loose lips sink ships.”

How you dress also matters. It’s understandable to want to dress up for the holiday party or let your style shine through, but it’s not the time to put on the sequins tank top, tight skirt or ripped jeans. Andrews says to dress appropriately for where the party is being thrown. It’s ok to be business casual if the party is in a bar, but if it’s at a country club you’ll want to get dressed up. “Being a little conservative in your dress is probably a good thing,” says Andrews.

While everyone has their guard down at the office holiday party, it’s not the time or place to over share or to tell off-color jokes that may offend someone. It’s also not the time to eat like it’s you’re final meal, hit on a co-worker or stay long enough to be the one creating a scandal. “The day after an office party you should be thinking: ‘Oh that was really great food, and I never realized Gail was a rock climber like me,’ and not, ‘I have a killer hangover, and all I can remember is throwing up on my supervisor’s shoes and having her call me a cab,’” says Rao.