The holidays are coming! Now is the time to prepare and make a game plan for attending the holiday office party. There are a lot of pitfalls to avoid, and most of them are spelled out in the old employee handbook.
If you haven’t read yours in a while, it’s time to give it a re-read. Holiday office parties are meant to be motivational, fun and a way to let employees know how valuable and appreciated they are. While companies are shying away from serving alcohol (too much liability) and scaling back (too expensive) there are still plenty of things that could go wrong.
Start at the beginning, where the CEO or owner recounts the history of the company and how they grew from small beginnings to the corporate giant of today. Remind yourself how much you love working at this company, your job and working with your co-workers. You’ll need a clear picture of what you have to lose when you’re about to take that third glass of wine, or corner the boss under the mistletoe.
The company dress code may be a little tame for the party, but be careful about showing too much skin. Lots of parties are held at the office, so your slinky black cocktail dress may not be appropriate. Business casual looks good, with a little bit of bling to make it festive. Guys—well the guys don’t have much variation, unless they want to show up in a tuxedo or a costume.
The disciplinary section is a laundry list of infractions that can happen at the office party and can send you out the door with a box of your personal belongings:
- Using profanity (probably fueled by the alcohol)
- Fighting with employees (finally got a chance to tell off an annoying co-worker)
- Drinking on the job—you’re not technically on the job, but getting drunk and falling asleep on the table doesn’t make the best impression
- Sexual harassment – the holiday mood, music and general feeling of good will, plus the opportunity to hug everybody, dancing (and maybe a little too much alcohol) can open a lot of doors that were held shut during the workday.
The worst part of the holiday party, especially if you’re guilty of any of the above, is the morning after when you have to come back to work. You may not remember how you acted, but everyone else does. Or, the attention and signals you thought you got from a little-too-friendly co-worker may have been fueled by the spirit of the season instead of true emotion. Getting the cold shoulder from that person the next day or worse—making a joke of it all—can make for one lousy morning after.
All that can be uncomfortable or embarrassing, but not coming back to work at all is far worse. Office parties don’t seem to be as cheery without a glass or two of wine or a beer, but a little too much can be deadly as party-goers take to the highways. Losing a job is no comparison to losing a life.
Socrates once said, “Know thyself.” A good suggestion for anyone going to the office holiday party. Know your limits. Know your weaknesses. Know your hot buttons. Resolve to stay within your limits and have a great time at the party and no regrets the next day. You’ll have a clear head and a job to enjoy the rest of the year.
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