Avoiding Disaster at the Office Holiday Party

As we wrap up Thanksgiving and move into December, you know it’s coming. And nothing says potential career disaster like the office holiday party. We’ve all witnessed those cringe-worthy gaffes and may have even made some of them. But, there is good news. You can definitely avoid holiday party disaster if you plan ahead and follow your plan.


Here are my top 10 tips for office holiday party success:


1. Treat the office holiday party like any other work event. That’s right. It’s a work event. You don’t drink too much at the staff meeting, do you? Eat a little something ahead of time so you don’t look like locusts on a field at the buffet table. And decide up front on your beverage limit. Then stick to that.


2. If you are attending with a date or spouse, make sure they follow the “treat it like a work event” rule, as well.


3. Even though the holiday party is a work event, don’t talk about work too much. Have a few non-controversial conversation starters (sports, pop culture, etc.) at the ready to break the ice with colleagues you may not see socially very much.


4. Be careful with social media. Best to only take pictures when people know they’re being photographed. And never, ever post a photo of a fellow employee that is not attractive or appropriate. The guy from accounting who had too much to drink and is asleep at the dinner table isn’t a pretty picture on Facebook.


5. If there is to be a gift exchange, follow the suggestions with respect to a price limit. Then select a gift that’s gender neutral and appropriate for any audience. A few years ago I took a silver candle snuffer that I found at an antique store (it was within the $15 price limit). The gift exchange was one of those where you could keep the gift you opened, or “steal” someone else’s. I’m happy to report the candle snuffer was “stolen” a couple of times.


6. Dress appropriately. There should be guidelines on the invitation, but if in doubt, definitely ask. And remember, this is not the time to debut that edgy cocktail dress. Save it for New Year’s Eve with your friends.


7. Greet the host on arrival and thank them for the invitation. Same upon departure. Let them know what a nice time you had and thank them for including you in the festivities.


8. Know when to leave. If the invitation has a prescribed ending time, plan to depart no later than 15 minutes before that time. If there is no stated ending time, take your cue from the rest of the group. Once a few people start saying their goodnights, you should follow suit. You do not want to be the last to leave. Because that will be remembered, and likely not in a good way.


9. While a formal thank you note isn’t necessary for the office party, you should stop by to see your manager the next workday and thank them again for a lovely time. This will be remembered. In a good way.


10. Finally, have fun. You’ve worked hard this year and deserve to celebrate (within limits) with your colleagues. This can help to set you and your team up for an even more successful 2019.