Here we are, that time of year when the media gets to trot out all those seedy, cautionary tales about how bad behavior at the holiday office party can land you in deep you-know-what or even blow up your career.

Everybody’s got a story. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who started the night with good intentions of having a drink and a few laughs with co-workers--only to wake up hungover under their desk with an inbox full of emails that say “no you didn’t” in the subject line.  

The truth is that work parties create a sense of community and culture, foster relationships, show appreciation, and are great for morale. In terms of actual risk to your job and reputation, the only real downside comes from the modern day office Grinch: Political Correctness.

Here’s what I always tell people. If you lose your job over something you do at an office party, either the job wasn’t worth having or you’ve got bigger problems than an article can fix. In other words, your boss wanted an excuse to get rid of you and you finally gave him one, or you have zero common sense and the word “boundaries” isn’t in your vocabulary.

Just in case you’re not sure about the whole boundaries thing when it comes to office parties, here are ten things you probably shouldn’t do.  

1. Give your boss a hearty pat on the back, call him “buddy,” and tell him how you’d run the department. 

2. Show off your new tattoo -- the one nobody can see.

3. Start doing shots. There’s always someone; just don’t let it be you.

4. Decide to tell a co-worker how you really feel about her. If it’s not a good idea on a normal work day; it’s definitely not a good idea after you’ve had a few. 

5. Brag about that confidential raise you got because you’re so special. It will come back to haunt you, guaranteed.  

6. Sing. I don’t care how good a voice your husband says you have. He’s lying.

7. Continue the work day. Yes, I know it’s the only thing you have in common with these people but, do I really have to tell you what a bummer that is? 

8. Meander over to your HR person and conspiratorially whisper, “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but Jennifer takes two hour lunches, um, oops!” Don’t gossip. Period.

9. Whine about the bad food, the cash bar, the retro music, or the boss being cheap. It’ll get around, that’s for sure. Not having a good time? Do everybody a favor. Just leave.

10. While counting drinks is usually a good idea, if you get to ten, you might want to grab your glass slippers and hop in the carriage before it turns into a pumpkin.

Get out there, have a great time, and take the opportunity to get to know your co-workers a bit. It’s a good thing. Just have a little common sense and remember the only rule you need to know: Enjoy the entertainment; just don’t be the entertainment.

Almost forgot. If you’ve got a hangover the next day, suck it up and show up for work. You get big-time respect points for that.  


Published on: Dec 18, 2012
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