Feature

How to avoid embarrassing yourself at the office Christmas party

“I could do your job with my eyes closed." Seven things to avoid at the office party.

Almost half British businesses are cutting back on paying for the office Christmas party, as they batten down the hatches.

It’ll probably be safer for everyone. I once dislocated my hip dancing at a do - it’s still a blur as drink was involved.

Years ago I got into a clinch with a secretary whom I now know didn’t like me much. When I got home ‘alone’ I found my neck was ringed with hickeys – she’d extracted sweet revenge on her pompous boss.

Since then I’ve been the model of sobriety and propriety. So, if you’re having an office bash here are a few hints to help you through the festive season with your career intact.

1. The Devil’s not in the detail – it's in the punch
At the very least, an excess of booze and the loss of inhibition is fodder for gossip and if you’re lucky, you'll be crowned an office legend.

Be warned in the UK we are an observed society. In most offices, security cameras are placed where you may not realise, including hallways, stairwells, and other people’s phones.

Picture this: a crowded room full of well-dressed people; an uncounted drink in your hand; you’re laughing, the contents of the glass begin splashing, and you start running your mouth – to camera!

 

 

According to a survey, about 15% of companies that hosted holiday parties say that inappropriate employee behavior in the past had resulted in adverse impact on employees' careers. Drink in moderation. Keep alcohol consumption to a bare minimum. Avoiding it altogether is the safest approach. 

 

 

2. I didn’t want to go anyway
Whatever the danger, attendance is practically mandatory. Arriving fashionably late is not fine; arrive in the first 30 minutes. People, particularly HR, remember who stayed for 10 minutes and departed early. If you’re a senior manager you should make a point of staying as long as possible - even when they’re a bit dull. 

3. Be sincere even when you don’t mean it
Office parties are for networking. It's your chance to meet people in different parts of your organisation. Don't just stick with your colleagues. Make the effort to meet someone new. Especially seek out people who worked with you on projects. Parties are a time to feel and express gratitude, not to act petulantly. Show your appreciation, even flatter.

Senior people are a sucker for compliments, even insincere ones. Why? Because they actually believe them! Big egos have got them where they are, and an ego is easy to massage. When introduced to someone, like an employee you don't know, make it count. We’re all going to need allies over the next few months as companies feel the squeeze.

A good tip - if there may be lots of introductions, keep your right hand free, so it's best to eat and drink with your left.

4. It’s not a laughing matter
Don’t tell jokes. We like to think we are entertaining, but too often the jokes are at the expense of someone else. What's funny to one person can be offensive to another. And don't gossip. You never know who's standing behind you, or is having a secret affair with the person you're talking about. If partners are invited, include them in conversation - it's not just good manners, they can often have an influence on your career.

5. I was lost for words: Party Conversation Tips
Limit conversations to 5 minutes.
Avoid in-depth discussions about business.
Never sit down, once you do you’re trapped.
Keep moving.
Thank the party’s organizers.

6. Didn’t you read the invitation?
Dress appropriately. If the party is out of office hours, find out what’s appropriate. If the party is formal, make the effort. Rent a DJ or a gown if you have to but leave the showy, revealing clothing for other places.

If business casual is the style, avoid tee shirts and jeans. As one boss once said to me, “Dressing down in this organisation is just a suit in a lighter shade of grey”.

7. Dancing the night away
When it comes to dancing it’s the time a lot of us get lost in the moment. Unfortunately, for some people it’s their moment and their moment to shine. But remember few of us will ever make it to the finals of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, so you’d better beware.

 

Above all, make the most of the event. It’s a time to shine by connecting with people and building relationships that will last into the New Year!

However, if things do go wrong there’s always a way out of any situation. It just takes an apology.

 

And, if you just can’t get enough. "Office Party" is a hit Christmas show where you can relive the horrors night after night.

 


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This was first published in November 2008

 

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