I haven't seen the new Office Christmas Party movie because the trailer alone gave me a nervous HR-induced twitch. Even the before-party scene where one character comments on another's low-cut blouse is enough to cause HR to run screaming through the building. But any such movie brings up good discussion topics. Here are some things you may not know about your office holiday party but should.
This is a work function.
Sure, it looks like a party. Parties are all about fun, right? No. A work party is about suffering. Okay, not really, but it's a work event. The point is to celebrate the success of the company and bond as a team. Having fun is a side effect, but it's not the primary purpose. Think of it as a meeting with extra good food and, occasionally, some alcohol.
When at a work function, work rules apply.
This means that you can still be fired for sexually harassing someone. The company can be held liable for things that happen when you get too drunk to stand up straight, and you can lose out on that promotion by making a fool of yourself in front of your boss. Even if your boss is also drunk, you should not get drunk. The risks are too high.
Your plus-one is being judged.
Now, I'll state right out that your date (be it your spouse of 25 years or the person you met last week on Tinder) shouldn't have negative effects on your career, but they certainly can. As long as your date behaves, all is well. It doesn't matter if he's a bit dry or her laugh is a bit shrill. But if your date starts insulting people, repeats the things you've complained about over dinner, or gets ridiculously drunk, it will affect how people view you. Like it or not, you're judged by the company you keep.
Not going can be damaging to your career.
Parties should be voluntary, and at some companies they truly are. No one cares if you show up or not. But, at other companies, your absence will be conspicuous and, possibly, held against you. You cannot go and sit in the corner and sulk, either. You have to mingle. Of course, if your reason for not going is religious, they can't legally hold it against you, but otherwise, skip the party at your own peril.
You can use the party to help your career.
The company holiday party is one of the few places where departments and levels truly do mix. Use this to your advantage to get to know people outside your group. Sucking up is not what you are here to do; you are here to network. Ask people about themselves. Get to know them. Answer their questions, but don't fling yourself on the VP's feet trying to get a promotion. Remember, it's like a night of internal job interviews.