Holiday company parties are great to celebrate accomplishments, have fun, and raise morale. But remember, it's still a business function and you're still going to have to face your coworkers the following day or week.
There are things you just don't do at these corporate events. And there are things you should be doing that you may not even be considering.
Here is a definitive guide to the do's and don'ts for these annual events.
5 Absolute Do's
1. You have to show up.
Don't be the office scrooge by being a no-show, which could hurt your reputation, especially if you're a boss. Even if you're an introvert who'd rather be home in front of the fireplace soaking up a good book, attend the party even if it's for a short while. It shows your team members that you're invested in them as people, not just between 9-and-5. Your coworkers (or subordinates) will appreciate the gesture.
2. Watch your behavior.
Sure, go out and have fun, let your hair (not top) down, and even bust a move on the dance floor when the DJ calls for it. But when in the company of peers and coworkers, don't lose your inhibitions, especially since the alcohol is flowing. (More on that in the Don'ts section) Conduct yourself professionally (I didn't say be a prude), and be aware that you're probably being observed, especially if you're in a leadership role.
3. Network and get to know people.
What a great opportunity this venue offers for people to get to know each other away from office politics, deadlines, and status meetings. So go mingle, be social, and find out new things about people -- their hobbies, musical tastes, family history, and what they like to eat. Since this is a two-way street, let them know the real you too. Let your personality shine! And make sure to branch out and meet people you may not see or work with every day. By "working the room" you might find someone with a unique skill for a future project, or discover a new career opportunity in the hiding.
4. Dress appropriately.
Is the event formal? Then dress up. Is it a casual dinner at a restaurant? Then dress down. Is it an 80's themed holiday party? Break out your Valley Girl outfit and wear it in style. Don't be a rebel, so make sure to stick to the event dress code. And whatever you do, don't show too much skin. You're not going clubbing on New Year's eve, you're celebrating a company event.
5. Go out of your way to say "thank you."
Seek out the host, party organizers, or the people who paid for this event and give them your sincere thanks. The same goes to the caterers, servers, band members and staff who ran the event, right down to the janitor sweeping the floor. Your words go a long way, and such praises and gratitude may make an impression on someone important that could catapult your career path.
5 Absolute Don'ts
1. Don't overindulge.
Remember, you're still in a professional environment. Know your drink limit, and stick to it. If the open bar may be too tempting, and you know you can't handle your booze, draw an imaginary line 10 feet around the bar and steer clear of it. Partying is good; swinging from the chandelier like you're in an episode of "Workers Gone Wild" is the fast-track to a ruined career.
2. Don't spend more time on your smartphones than the people in front of you.
This is a social event, not a social media event. Put away the smartphone, stop texting, emailing, status updating, or tweeting when you're with people. Not only is it annoying, rude, and disrespectful, you might just miss out on learning something really cool or important about a colleague or boss.
3. Don't get into awkward conversations and sensitive work topics.
The risk of combining a couple drinks with the casual environment and fun atmosphere is that it lowers your or someone else's inhibitions. That colleague with a chip on her shoulder is now cornering you to "get your perspective" on a difficult work issue, or may be over-sharing something that is totally inappropriate. This is neither the right time or place, so handle this with care. Steer clear of talk that escalates to complaining, criticizing, correcting, or ridiculing. And avoid controversial and polarizing topics like religion and politics.
4. Don't talk too much about yourself.
Sure, this is the time for others to get to know you, so be entertaining and engaging. Just avoid dominating the conversation and telling your life story because your welcome will disappear as fast as that last plate of hors d'oeuvres. Instead, tune in to the conversation, follow the action, listen before speaking, and chime in with something witty, informative, or thought-provoking for another perspective (but keep it light hearted).
5. Don't take her or him home.
I would hope that if you're married, you're bringing your spouse with you to introduce to your colleagues. But if you're single or were set-up on a date by coworkers, go ahead--look dazzling, flirt a little, have fun, show your dance moves, and leave it at that. But please, avoid, I repeat, avoid at all cost getting drunk, hitting on someone, and taking that person home with you. You may find that your life will change for the worse when you return to work.
The office holiday party is a time to celebrate, connect with coworkers, and let people see the real you. Don't slip up, keep it classy, show respect, and protect your reputation. You want your colleagues returning on Monday seeing you as the same person from the week before.