Working It: How To Behave at the Office Holiday Party

Welcome to Working It! The column in which I, a thirty-year-old millennial with four jobs, help you navigate the wondrous world of workplace etiquette.

Now that we’re solidly in December, it’s undeniably the holiday season. For anyone who isn’t lucky enough to be self-employed, this means office parties. Now, I get how this can sound like an oxymoron. For some of you, the idea of dancing to Top 40 with your colleagues may sound like an average weekend, but if your co-workers aren’t your regular crew, the fear of making a misstep can induce serious social anxiety.

Between navigating the open bar and figuring out what the hell to wear, workplace parties can feel like every employee’s punishment for a job well done. So in preparation for what has the potential to be the most awkward night of the year, I have prepared a five-point plan to make you the belle of the office ball.

  1. Be a Social Butterfly

In my world, there are two types of coworkers: coworkers with whom I am close enough to discuss The Bachelor, and coworkers to whom I would never admit to watching The Bachelor. The former are your workplace posse. You know, the people you snigger with by the watercooler or play practical jokes on. But when it comes to the holiday fête, you want to branch out. I’m not telling you to ignore your work friends, but the point of a party is to have fun with as many people as possible, so work the room like you’re a Roomba cleaning a dirty kitchen. Nervous about striking up a conversation with someone new? The holidays themselves are a great icebreaker, so just ask people what their plans are. You’ll be Facebook friends in no time…

  1. Dress For Your Corporate Culture

For many of us, dressing for work on a daily basis is easy enough. Plenty of workplaces have uniforms or formal dress codes to guide employees. When it comes to your holiday party, it’s the sartorial version of the Wild West. If you’re a newbie in your workplace, you may have to do some reconnaissance work. Ask your coworkers what they wore to last year’s party, and maybe troll their social media accounts for inspiration. While I consider personal style sacred, you want to look appropriate. Is the vibe jeans and sweater, or cocktail casual? These are things you should ideally find out a week or two in advance. You want to plan your outfit with the same precision with which Joshua Jackson sculpts his abs.

  1. Give Yourself a Drink Limit

If you’re a drinker, it’s best not to get full on drunk at work, even at a holiday party. Now, I’m not judgey about displays of drunkenness. As long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others with your drinking habits, who cares if you dance on a table after imbibing? It’s all good fun between friends, right? Except it’s not in this case, because you aren’t just out with your friends. You’re also with Jan from finance and Andrew from the front desk. The more alcohol we consume, the more we tend to forget to filter our comments and refrain from fooling around with the wrong people. There’s a reason why sobriety is associated with second thoughts. Set yourself a drink limit and stick to it, even if the open bar is dishing out Chardonnay like water.

  1. Avoid Casual Hookups with Coworkers

Okay, everyone knows romance can blossom at work. We’ve all seen The Office (and if you haven’t, who are you?). If you really dig a colleague and they dig you back, absolutely date them. At the same time, I feel fairly confident telling you to avoid casual hookups with colleagues. Meaningless sex is supposed to be just that, meaningless. Your office is not 3-D Tinder; it’s a place you must return to each day in the interests of staying financially solvent. If you’re going to see someone at your next board meeting, you should not hit ‘em and quit ‘em, even if the holiday spirit (and the bar’s holiday spirits) have you all hot and bothered. If you really fancy a person, wait until next Monday to make your move.

  1. Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Work is serious. Your career should be important to you, but at the same time, the people who get promoted are the ones others enjoy being around. I know this five-point plan may sound proscriptive, but I really do want you to enjoy your workplace party. Overall, holiday parties are a bonding opportunity. They’re a chance to show your colleagues the light-hearted side of you who loves busting a move to Beyoncé; the you who absolutely slays at Karaoke when she sings “My Heart Will Go On.” The more fun you have, the more fun it will be for others to be around you. A little charisma can help your career, so don’t be afraid to tell your best dad joke or recount a charming childhood story. This is your chance to party like a boss! That is, responsibly, but with enthusiasm.

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