The Employee's Guide to Surviving the Holiday Office Party

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It's officially here! Holiday Office Party Season, that is. It's a time to celebrate the past year's accomplishments and connect with your colleagues. It can also be a scary time for some folks – why? Because it's a business function disguised as a social event and many people tend to forget this. So, to avoid being the next day's hot topic around the water cooler, follow these simple guidelines to surviving your holiday office party. 

1. Accept the Invitation. This is not optional. Make sure to respond to the host or hostess in a timely manner. There is nothing more annoying while planning a party than having to track down people for a response.

2. Stick to the Dress Code. If the invitation doesn't clearly state the appropriate attire (Ugly Sweater Party, for example), there will be clues, such as the time and venue that tell you what to wear. If you still aren't sure, ask someone. P.S. tight, low-cut, or overtly offensive clothing is never appropriate!

3. Gifts? Depends. Is the party held at someone's house? Yes. Is a Secret Santa part of the event? Yes. Are you purchasing an individual gift for your boss? Probably not. If you are purchasing a gift for the host or hostess or as a Secret Santa, make sure it is office appropriate and within the predetermined price limit. If you are going to buy a gift for your boss, do it as a group otherwise it looks like you are brown-nosing.

4. All in Moderation. This goes for eating and drinking. You can't shake someone's hand with greasy fingers or while you have a drink in both of yours. Have a snack before you go and stand away from the food table so you aren't tempted. Also, walk into the party knowing you will have a maximum of two drinks. There is no quicker career-ending move than behaving inappropriately due to alcohol.

5. Talk to People. Remember that guy who was on his phone during the entire party last year? So does everyone else. If small talk isn't necessarily your thing, think of a few topics ahead of time. Movies, books, sports, current events, and the ever popular "What are your plans for the holidays?" are good conversation starters. You can also use this time to either introduce yourself to the CEO or get to know him better. Talk up the company's most recent PR article and feel free to slip in a couple of your personal accomplishments. Just don't complain!

6. No Arriving Late or Leaving Early. There is no such thing as fashionably late at an office party. Arrive within the first 30 minutes and stay for more than 10. Everyone remembers that guy also. Take advantage of the time and audience you have – you might not have the chance to speak with the CEO or the VP of Marketing for another year. However, know when it's time to leave. If the party seems to be winding down, make one more round of hellos/goodbyes and go home. Staying too long with a select number of colleagues can get your name to the top of the water cooler list also.

7. Say Thank You. These are two small but very important words. If the party is at someone's home, be sure to send a thank you note. And a handwritten note means so much more than an email. Also use this opportunity to follow up with people you had conversations with at the party. This puts you in a positive light and can make all the difference. Just make sure do this within a week or so of the event to keep it relevant.


  • Guest
    Elias Trajan May 17 2014

    I kind of of bumped into your fun post during some festivities we had (non christmas related) at our work place this weekend. Our years accomplishments are coming to an end as projects are finishing for the Summer season. I did my best, showed up in time, had a chat with everyone.. but I will admit it was the first time I ever accepted an invitation, instead of just watching films at home or something. And I am extremely glad I did. Just play by the invitees rules and you never know what fun you could have.

    Elias Trajan

    PS. I encourage everyone to try it out some office parties!

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Guest January 22 2018