Office holiday parties are a great place to mix and mingle with your co-workers, clients, and bosses. They're not a great time to slug down shots, make out with a coworker, or wear an embarrassing outfit. Yet for many, these things happen every year. Here's how you can avoid the office holiday trap and have a great time.
When the boss behaves badly... Oftentimes people think the partygoers who act the most disastrously are the employees. But what happens when it's your boss? In a previous job, I directed charity events and enlisted friends to help out during the event. Towards the end of the night, after many tequila shots, one of my superiors started getting chummy with one of my friends. He asked me across the bar if he "had my blessing."
He was twice her age, she was tipsy...he didn't, but what could I say? They stumbled out together shortly thereafter, with most of the company watching. Fast-forward to the next morning, when my friend gives me the play by play before having a chat with my boss. He apologized for his actions and came clean as soon as he saw me. I admire him, but it gave me an impactful lesson that when you are a boss, you need to set a different set of standards – including during the company party. You don't need your firm seeing you in a negative light.
Set a two-drink max. We've all been there. The top shelf open bar and tiny apps = danger zone. Before any holiday party, make sure you have a hardy lunch/snack, because chances are that the tuna tartar and caviar are going to enhance any alcohol you might consume. It's fine to drink amongst co-workers, but give yourself a limit of two drinks and switch to seltzer after that. I'll never forget seeing a much older co-worker who got so drunk she stumbled down a flight of stairs and needed to be escorted home, or the co-worker who tripped and blew out the whole sound system for an event. Don't be that person.
Don't be a Christmas tree. It's fine to dress up in the holiday spirit, but keep it tasteful. This is your time to shine and rub elbows with people you don't always come in contact with, i.e. the big boss and clients. Don't wear a hilarious ugly Christmas sweater and reindeer ears – save that for a family party.
On that note, don't wear too many sequins or a low cut dress – you want to wear something that gets you noticed but not glared at. A former intern of mine literally wore a Christmas tree one year. Sure, it was hysterical--but wrong place, wrong time.
Avoid being a wallflower. Holiday parties are often the best place to get in touch with people with whom you're ordinarily unable to chat. Are you interested in working with the marketing department? Get to know the team and ask them about their projects.
And be sure you make time to chat with your boss. Need some conversation inspiration? Log into LinkedIn and check out what's been going on in your industry. Recent product launches or acquisitions by your competitors? Pick his or her brain and add your two cents on the topic.
While the rest of your co-workers are indulging in the open bar, try and chat with at least five people with whom you're not as close. I've seen many opportunities arise from holiday parties: freelancing gigs, promotions, raises, projects. This isn't the time to chat with your cube mates--it's the time to learn about your company and see how you can add more value to it.