Office holiday party season is upon us, which means that your colleagues and bosses will be seeing you outside of the 9 to 5 environment and in a more casual setting outside of working hours. While it can be quite tempting to let really loose at the cocktail party and enjoy too much merriment, or even partake in some potentially toxic or harmful office party culture, remember, not everyone is going to be 6 shots deep with you and will remember what happened come the Monday morning water cooler talk.
Getting down with the merriment and egg nog is a favorite for many of us at holiday parties, but drinking responsibly has never been more important than when you’re drinking with colleagues and department heads. While some team dynamics allow for a very relaxed environment and party where you can take shots with your teammates and really let loose, be very aware of your surroundings before you start offering up drinks to yourself and others. At all costs, avoid being the employee who is sent home in an Uber and is the unflattering story everyone tells when the topic of the office party comes up.
While talking about what has been going on in the office and boasting about accomplishments isn’t frowned upon by any means, only talking about work takes the party aspect out of the party. Avoid being the one who only wants to talk about work at the party by talking about what your colleagues are up to outside of office hours (of course, only if they offer up the information and want to make it public) and what you’re doing for the holidays and looking forward to. Talking about the news and politics can be a tricky subject in many aspects, but, if you know your environment and can keep it civil, talking current events can makes for an interesting and lively discussion with your teammates that helps let off some steam and helps you get to know one another better. Just be sure to cut the conversation off if the topic gets too heated.
Additionally, when talking about non-work related topics, remind yourself that the rule of ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ doesn’t apply at office parties and that others will remember the gossip and information you divulged over hors devours later on. Rules of thumb: don’t bring up anything that you wouldn’t want people to remember about you when you walk into that Monday morning briefing meeting.
Don’t dress too festive for the occasion- be sure to still keep it professional. While I am no fan of office dress codes an am a firm believer that some go way too far in policing women’s clothing (plus, the harassers of women are the ones who really need to be dealt with, not my skirt), there is a line you have to draw in your attire when your boss, future network connections, and current colleagues will be present. Do you really feel comfortable wearing that one party dress knowing your department vice president will be there? In most cases, office dress codes still apply (maybe just in a bit more lax way) at office parties, so be sure to double check on how casual (or dressy) you should go so that your outfit isn’t a topic of conversation, outside of everyone talking about how cute it was.
Some office parties allow plus one’s to attend, which can be a fun way to introduce your significant other, or even just a good friend, to the other central people in your life (and maybe even be some good networking arm candy), but bringing someone from the outside world into your work environment, even in a party setting, can cause trouble for you if they’re not careful. While you should always allow others to be authentic to who they are, briefing your plus one beforehand on office etiquette, topics (and people) to avoid, as well as other points of significance is important in order to avoid causing a stir or embarrassment for you to clean up later.
All of these tips are important to remember, not just for the sake of avoiding causing career trouble for yourself, but because there will be important people of influence at the party that you need to network with, and doing so drunk or in a too tight dress probably won’t do as much for your career as you were hoping. Be sure to make the rounds at the party for the needed introductions to the big wigs you’ve been meaning to catch throughout the year. Going up to a department vice president, or someone of higher title, can be nerve wracking (which might make you want to chug another drink) so don’t be afraid to use your current network to help with the introduction, or, approach them in a group where you can strike up a conversation with a familiar face and work towards the introduction later on. Just be sure to remember that they’re there to relax too, so don’t turn the party into a business meeting.
When it comes down to it, office holiday parties are places to let a bit loose, network, relax, and celebrate the year and the holidays with those who you worked hard with day in and day out. Don’t forget basic party etiquette, lest your reputation gets tarnished because you forgot you can’t hold your liquor and your new boss witnessed it all.