The annual office holiday party. Yearly bacchanal of the professionals. Wild, lavish Christmas parties may not be as common in the workplace as they were yesteryear, especially as many companies cut costs. However, odds are good that your employer will do something to acknowledge the season of Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/solstice/New Year before everyone leaves for their respective plans.
It may seem like an easy event (paaaartay, woo!), but the office party can be a minefield. Here are five cautionary people to keep in mind as you put on that reindeer sweater, sip on some eggnog and get ready to spread some holiday cheer with your colleagues.
1. The Drinker
Not every holiday party has booze, but if yours does, this is the top area where things can go wrong—especially if there’s an open bar. Never, never forget that you’re at a work event with your colleagues, whether the party is happening in your office or at that cool bar down the street. Try to limit yourself to one or two drinks. If you end up drinking too much and saying or doing something regrettable, you could find yourself branded for the next year in the office. You should definitely be having fun, but don’t let down your guard so much that you’re reliving your old-school partying days at the office gathering.
2. The Food Snob
If you have caviar tastes but find yourself at a chips-and-dip party, don’t be the one complaining about the spread—especially if someone else is footing the bill. For many companies, economic realities make a holiday party entirely optional. There just might not be a budget for champagne and fois gras appetizers, so it’s better to embrace that you’re being fed on the company’s dime. This advice goes double if your office shindig is a potluck. Debbie’s festive Jell-O monstrosity might not be to your liking, but making fun of it on Facebook is not going to win you many fans.
3. The Dancer
The office party dance floor is not the time to debut the lambada you taught yourself by watching YouTube videos. It’s also another chance to be wary of how much you’re, uh, enjoying yourself (see #1), keeping in mind that everyone can see you. Also, they likely have smartphones and the wifi connection to put your killer dance moves on the internet. So keep it G-rated, and don’t treat it like an audition for So You Think You Can Dance.
4. The Inappropriate Fashionista
Sorry, but office dress code still applies at the office holiday party. I once had a colleague who would disappear into the ladies’ room for an hour before the holiday party, and emerge looking like she was ready for a night at the city’s best clubs—complete with invisibly short skirt and a very low-cut top. Everyone else was wearing the same business-casual outfits they normally wore, so it was definitely… awkward. When choosing an outfit for the holiday party, stick to clothes you would feel comfortable wearing any other day at work.
5. The Monopolizer
The holiday party is a great chance to talk to colleagues you don’t see often or strike up conversations with people who could be good additions to your network for next year. Try not to spend all your time with the same person. Even if you’re an introvert, the holiday party is a great excuse to be a little extra social—with food and drink to get you relaxed and chatting. So circulate! There’s no need to lock down one person for two hours’ worth of conversation.
So yes, there are rules, but the most important one is still this one: have fun! You’ve had a long and productive year, and this is a chance to blow off steam with your coworkers. By paying a little extra attention to how you approach this social-professional hybrid event, you can celebrate with good cheer and go home knowing your name will be gossip-free when you all return after the holidays.