15 tips for surviving your office holiday party

Have fun, but don't get too wild.

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Have fun, but don’t get too wild.
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Stephanie Keith / Stringer / Getty Images

• If you plan to attend an office holiday party this year, keep in mind that it’s still a work event.

• The key is moderating yourself – especially when it comes to alcohol intake.

• Take steps, like eating beforehand and eschewing business talk, in order to have a successful and fun evening.

‘Tis the season – for your office’s annual holiday party.

Here’s hoping your bash is merry and bright. But, before you put on your Santa hat and go to town, just remember these kinds of Yuletide events are inherently risky. Mixing booze and coworkers and the stress of the holiday season can be a truly volatile combination.

It’s important to take steps to avoid humiliating yourself at this year’s festivities. After all, the night could turn out to be a fun time, spent celebrating the season with your colleagues. Or it could mutate into an evening of drunken disaster.

It all depends on your attitude.

Here are 15 tips to make sure your office holiday party is an unmitigated success.


1. Ask about the dress code ahead of time

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You need to find out what the dress code is and stick to it, career coach Barbara Pachter told Business Insider.

Pachter, the author of “The Essentials of Business Etiquette,” said you don’t want people talking about what you wore the day or night after the party. Whatever you wear, remember that it’s still a business event.


2. Don’t go on an empty stomach

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Although there might be hors d’oeuvres, you should still eat at least a little bit before the party begins. If not, you may become more intoxicated than you intended. Furthermore, eating while you’re mingling isn’t the most comfortable in a professional setting.

“Eat a little before you go to a business social event,” said Pachter. “If you drink, you’ll have something in your stomach, and if the food is delayed, you won’t be hungry.”


3. Don’t even think about skipping the party

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To show that you’re committed to the company, make sure you show up for at least 30 minutes. Always assume company gatherings are “must attend” events.


4. But also don’t show up on time

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Even if the party takes place at the office, Drew Magary at GQ advises you go home after work, then come back.

If you can’t do that, just continue working until you see that 75% of your colleagues have turned on their holiday mode. Magary wrote: “You know who shows up on time? That one creepy lady who works in human resources who you never talk to. Now it’s just you two, standing there while the DJ spins ‘Gangnam Style.'”


5. Use the party as an opportunity to meet people you don’t already know

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Especially in a large company, you’ll likely see people at the party that you don’t normally have a chance to interact with. Maybe they work on a different floor from you, or in a different office.

This is a good chance to build what Pachter calls a “minor rapport” with people who could help you later on in your career.

“The person at the party you’re talking to, you may be interviewing with them six months from now,” she said.


6. But don’t explicitly conduct business

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In other words, don’t ask about that new position opening up or if you’re eligible for a raise. It’s tacky.

Since it’s an office event, it’s obvious that some business-related conversations will come up, but don’t come to the party with an agenda, Helene Wasserman, an attorney for the international labor and employment law firm Littler, previously told Business Insider.

Also, try to avoid all gossiping about your coworkers.


7. Be sensitive to different religious affiliations

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Don’t forget that your colleagues might be celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, as well as Christmas.


8. Know your drinking limit

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You need to prepare yourself ahead of time by setting guidelines, whether that’s one or two drinks max.


9. Don’t dance romantically with another employee

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Avoid public displays of affection, even if you’re seeing someone in the office.

“If you are dating someone at the company and still keeping it a secret, this is not the time to start dancing romantically, because then everyone will know,” said Pachter.

It’s also not the time to try to make a move on a coworker you’ve been crushing on, or to start trying to woo an employee you’re meeting for the first time.

“Don’t embarrass somebody by going up to them and asking them to dance unless you’re sure they will say yes,” Pachter said.


10. Loosen up a bit

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Obviously, you don’t want to loosen up to the point where you’re plastered, yelling at your office nemesis, or generally embarrassing yourself in front of people. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to relax a bit.

Writing for Salary.com, Harrison Monarth encouraged party-goers to “engage on a human level and show some humility.” This is your chance to really mingle with the people you work with every day. So don’t be afraid to show a little warmth at your holiday party.


11. Don’t be the last one to leave the party

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It might be a festive event, but don’t make a name for yourself as the company’s party animal. Also, try to stop drinking an hour before you leave, said Wasserman.

If you become too intoxicated, find a cab immediately.


12. Don’t go to the third venue

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Some of your coworkers may want to go out after the party ends, and if you’ve been controlling your alcohol intake, feel free to go and mingle with your colleagues.

However, a few drinks later, if someone suggests a third venue, don’t go.

Why? By the time you make it to that third venue, the vibe has changed. It’s no longer the ‘happy hour’ crowd. It’s now the ‘let’s rage’ crowd. At this moment – as a working adult – you need to make a choice. The moment your colleagues see you in a compromising position, they will likely view you differently. Is that a risk you want to take? Because at this point, there is no turning back.


13. Make sure you say goodbye to people

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If you don’t say your goodbyes, it will make it look like you snuck out for some reason. You can also make a point of going up to the people who organized the party and thanking them for doing such a great job.


14. Be mindful of social media

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It’s a huge no-no to post negative opinions about your company or its holiday party on Facebook or Twitter, Pachter said. You’ll also want to avoid posting photos or descriptions of coworkers who have had too much to drink.

In general, Pachter said it’s best to keep anything you write about the party positive, and to ask people if you plan to post photos of them on social media.

“Someone’s unbecoming behavior shouldn’t be discussed or shown on Facebook,” she said.


15. Make it to work the next day

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This is even more crucial if you get intoxicated at the party. Everyone will know why you didn’t show up to work the next day – including your boss.

Brian Moylan at Gawker wrote: “You have to go to work the next day. If you don’t, everyone will know why, and they will sit around and talk about your bad behavior the night before twice as much. If you’re there, they have to sneak around and do it behind your back, which will cut down on the office gossip by at least 50%. You’re already in trouble, don’t make it worse.”

This post is an updated version of a story originally written by Vivian Giang and Aaron Taube.