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Whether you love it or hate it, the office holiday party inevitably occupies an important slot on your seasonal festivity to-do list. As a total introvert, yours truly looks forward to the annual office party with as much enthusiasm as I view dental appointments. Both fall into the “necessary evils” category.
But my inner Grinch aside, even I recognize the importance of this less-formal gathering of colleagues. Company celebrations offer opportunities to get to know your co-workers better and mingle with folks in other departments whom you rarely meet. You may even discover that witch Wanda in the next cubicle shares the same wicked sense of humor as you.
Opportunities aside, the office holiday party can make or break your reputation in the workplace. If you hope to advance in your career, be wise — part of working smarter, not harder, means partying smart, too. Here are eight ways to do that.
You may think no one will take note of your absence, especially if you work for a large corporation, and simply staying at home sipping cocoa in comfy pants tempts even the most extroverted among us. Avoid yielding to this temptation.
With work events, as with social media postings, the wrong person inevitably takes notice. Skipping out on office holiday gatherings conveys a message to your employer that you’re just not that into them. Making your presence known at office events can help make the difference as to whether you get promoted to a corner office or remain confined to cubicle city.
No one says you have to stay until the ball drops, but by all means, make an appearance. Make your rounds and chit-chat with enough folks that you’re sure to be remembered for being there — even if you’re not featured in any Facebook photos. If you’re like me and the thought of mixing and mingling gives you goosebumps, plan an exit strategy. Few bosses can argue with a sitter who can’t stay late or an ailing Aunt Edna who needs your help.
Dress to Impress
Even though most office parties take place after work hours, leave your clubbing gear at home. No, you don’t need to show up in your best interview suit — after all, you at least want the option of getting loose on the dance floor. But, you should dress modestly.
However many day-to-evening-wear articles you digest, wardrobe oopsies still happen. Make sure that ruffly tulle skirt doesn’t give your coworkers an unexpected glimpse.
Prepare in Advance
Introverts of the world unite! At home! Via your computer screen.
Many of us shudder at the thought of making small talk. Fortunately, though, you can learn the so-called gift of gab like any other skill. Spend a bit of time researching icebreaker questions online prior to the big party day.
Do keep your convo natural, though. For the truly timid, questions such as, “What did you do for Thanksgiving?” flow more smoothly than queries like, “If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?”
Bring a Date
One of the perks of relationships means never having to face the festive fray sans your partner. Plus, part of the purpose of the office holiday party means giving your coworkers a peek at your life and personality after hours.
Bring a date if you’re permitted to do so. Bonus points if you have a gregarious partner capable of keeping the conversation going. While you shouldn’t drag someone along for the sole purpose of having a safe person to talk to, it can certainly help to have someone you know there.
Don’t Go Home with Joe From Accounting
As tempting as it may be if you’ve had your eye on that cutie two cubicles down, don’t use the office holiday party as a time to hook up. The vast majority of employers frown on relationships between employees, and some ban the practice altogether. If your boss throws the annual festivus at your office location, avoid trying to take the adorable intern home — those walls really do talk.
Take It Easy
Similar to ditching the opportunity to get down and dirty with Dave in marketing, refraining from sipping on too much gin and juice should fall into the common-sense category. Inevitably, social media feeds fill up this time of year with the uproarious antics of folks who had a few too many at company celebrations.
No one wants the label of office lush, and severe drinking can nix a budding career. Enjoy a cocktail or two if you must, but if you plan on staying till last call, at least alternate each alcoholic beverage with a non-alcoholic one to maintain sensible inhibitions. You’ll also lessen your chances of injuring yourself on company premises, which can lead to a whole other host of problems with HR.
Avoid Taboo Topics
Unless you work for a faith-based ministry, insisting that your office mates wish you a Merry Christmas instead of happy holidays can land you in a heap of trouble and may constitute a terminable offense. While you may personally believe Jesus is the reason for the season, have sensitivity toward those with different religious beliefs — or no religious beliefs at all.
Likewise, do you often gripe and groan about office politics or policy? Save it for social events your boss doesn’t attend. You never know who may overhear.
Mind Your Manners
Finally, taking the time to thank the organizers of your annual office bash goes a long way toward fostering a positive work environment. Before making your exit, be sure to extend a gracious and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to your boss and any other personnel involved in planning the event.
Congrats, You Survived!
Navigating the stormy waters of your annual holiday office party requires the skill of an experienced captain. Reward yourself for making it through.
Personally, after surviving the annual celebration with my career reputation intact, I prefer to spend the rest of the weekend curled up with my pets and a good book. However you celebrate, be proud of yourself once you’ve managed to handle the office holiday get-together like the competent, professional adult you are.