Employer Branding Timebound

The Holiday Office Party: A Cautionary Tale

Well, another year has come and gone, and the holidays are once again upon us. For most of us, that means the obligatory holiday office party. It’s a time for us to come together with people we work with and celebrate as if we didn’t work with them. We can eat, drink and be merry without the requests, demands and general office politics. But what we all know to be true is that once the party’s over, reality comes rushing back in. What happens at the holiday office party does not stay at the holiday office party. Yet every year, there are always a few who seem to forget…and they’re the ones who make for good stories after their untimely departure from the company. Let’s take a look at a few best practices when partying with coworkers this season.

Know your limits:

This should be considered rule 1, as well as rules 2, 3, 4 and 5. It’s very simple – if bad office party behavior is stacked in the form of an upside-down pyramid, the bottom block upon which everything else rests is alcohol. When was the last time an office party faux pas was made that didn’t involve alcohol? There’s something about the office party setting that causes people to blow off more steam than they normally would on a typical night out. Maybe it’s the allure of throwing caution to the wind around those who have only seen us on our best office behavior. Regardless, office parties are a breeding ground for career-killing mistakes, and they’re always fueled by generous amounts of alcohol. If you want to ensure your career and your relationship with coworkers remain unscathed, know your limit, or stick with the soft drinks.

Remember where you are:

Before you even get to the party, make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Even if the party is held in a bar or nightclub, it doesn’t change the fact that you will be in the company of managers and coworkers. Whether intentional or unintentional, an outfit that is too casual or too revealing can send the wrong message to work associates and make your return to the office uncomfortable. Also, the same goes for your date. If you bring your spouse or significant other, his or her appearance, speech and mannerisms will reflect on you. Make sure he or she knows this beforehand, and is able and willing to make a good impression on those who hold your career in their hands.

Don’t dance if you can’t dance:

Remember the episode of Seinfeld when Elaine decided to dance at her office party, and the result was so bad that her coworkers ridiculed her upon returning to work? If dancing isn’t your strong suit and you feel the need to bust a move at your office party, it probably has something to do with the above paragraph on alcohol. Nevertheless, be aware of your actions, and know that they will be scrutinized from the time the dance ends until every person attending the party has quit the company. If you end up leaving the company and working elsewhere with a former coworker, expect the scrutinization to continue. Incidentally, this advice also applies to singing if your office party involves karaoke.

Just don’t:

Any other office party shenanigans you decide may be a good idea at the spur of the moment, just remember, don’t. Play it safe, and you’ll be glad for it the next day. This goes for speaking badly about your job or your boss, flirting with coworkers, acting disrespectful toward supervisors or subordinates, or any other behavior that you wouldn’t want reflecting on you in a corporate setting. The best rule to live by is when it comes to holiday office parties, if it’s not something you would do sober and during office hours, it’s probably not appropriate for the office party.

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.