Festive and amusing, holiday office parties have always been an excellent way to boost company morale and reward employees for their hard work throughout the year. They are an excellent way to socialize and relax, and can even work as an excellent networking opportunity.
Fun as these events are meant to be, there is a certain unspoken decorum that should be followed. Many careers have fallen prey to the office holiday party gone wrong. Here are a few tips from our office to yours in the hopes that your holiday function will go as smoothly as possible.
Check to see what your company’s policy is regarding alcohol consumption during holiday parties. Some corporations don’t allow it at all, while others may actually budget out a significant amount of money for liquor. If it turns out that alcohol is permitted, don’t provide an open bar. It may seem like something Ebenezer Scrooge might do, but alcohol consumption can send things spinning out of control quicker than you can say “jingle bells”. One idea is to hand out tickets with a limited number of free drinks. Two to three drinks per person are ideal. That way, people can enjoy themselves and their beverages, but the consumption on the company’s dime will be held to a minimum. Also, people are less likely to over-drink if they have to pay for it after a certain point.
That being said, it might be a good idea to discuss things ahead of time. A concrete explanation of the expectations for your company’s holiday event should be laid out so that most misunderstandings can be ironed out prior to the party. You want your employees to have fun, but you also don’t want to be held responsible if something goes awry. On that note, it’s not a terrible idea to consider holding the party on a weeknight. People will behave themselves if they know they have to go to work the next morning, rather having the convenience of a weekend buffer between work and play.
Regardless of any preventative measures you may put in place, somebody is going to drink too much. It’s almost completely unavoidable. See if your venue provides courtesy rides home for intoxicated guests. If none are available, arrange for other safe transportation home prior to the event. It also might be a good idea to have a couple of members of your staff keep an eye on overall alcohol consumption. Try to provide a menu high in protein or starch. Avoid greasy or salty foods, as these usually trigger people’s tendency to over-drink.
The venue is also important. Choose an unusual location, like an art gallery or dinner cruise. Keep in mind that just because people work well together, doesn’t mean they play well together. Try providing some form of entertainment to break the ice. A DJ or magician or comedian might be nice. If a DJ isn’t available, make sure you provide nice, pleasant music for the background. Try to avoid anything religiously based. You don’t want to offend anyone or make them feel excluded. This tip runs along the same lines as keeping with a generic “happy holidays” rather than “merry Christmas.”
To start off, don’t pay any attention to the “voluntary” nature of your office party invitation. It’s not voluntary. They say it’s voluntary so that it doesn’t look like they’re forcing you into it. The understanding is that you’ll go. If you don’t, it could hurt your reputation. Additionally, you shouldn’t show up for the last five minutes of the party. Allow yourself at least enough time to socialize with everyone for at least about half an hour.
While the purpose of the holiday party is to have fun and let your hair down a little, it is important to remember to be professional. Remember, your boss is still watching. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to go back to work with these people, so smile and be friendly, but don’t be stupid. Over-drinking is a huge “don’t”…try to use the rule of thumb that, for every alcoholic drink you consume, you should have about half a glass of water. Alcohol dehydrates you, so the water will counter-balance that and help you keep your wits about you.
Regardless of your company’s dating policy, do not use your office holiday party as an opportunity to “hook up” with coworkers. Again, you’re going to have to work with these people after the party ends. Don’t bring gag gifts for the boss or pull any other crazy stunts that you might do at another party. (Naturally, this means that the age-old party lampshade should stay at home.)
Dress appropriately for the party. Make sure you know whether it is a formal or casual affair. Either way, it’s still a business function. Keep it conservative.
With all of this being said, you should enjoy yourself at the party. Don’t spend the entire time talking about work. It’ll look like you don’t have a life outside of the office. Keep the conversation light and upbeat. Don’t monopolize the conversation, either. Stick to topics that aren’t controversial. Travel plans and gift ideas (like new gadgets or seasons of new shows you like, etc.) are a good place to start. Keep away from anything dealing with religion or politics. It’s a party, not a debate.
Be sure to thank the boss for throwing the party prior to heading to the bar or buffet table. Shake his or her hand and, if there is a bit of a distance between you in the office, tell them your full name politely and which department you work for. Have something relatively interesting to say to them in the back of your mind. They’re looking at how everyone socializes, hold their liquor, maintain eye contact, etc. The party is an excellent way to build or strengthen your business relationship. Network.
Moderation, of course, is key. Don’t abuse the privilege of an open bar or buffet. It makes you seem gluttonous and you’ll come off like you’re avoiding people. You’re there to socialize, not gorge yourself. Also, make sure that you know ahead of time if you’re allowed to bring a guest. If you are, make sure the guest is appropriate. Their behavior is every bit as important as yours.
Don’t dance on anything other than the floor. If you do drink too much, keep it relatively civilized. Again, your boss is watching. Also, if your boss happens to be a little too drunk, refrain from posting pictures of them on the internet. These things, much like the unfortunate mistletoe headband, never end well.
Above all else, remember to thank whoever it was that threw the office party. These days, a lot of companies refrain from such a thing and it speaks volumes for yours if they do hold one. Office parties are meant to boost morale, and you’re fortunate if you work for a company that cares enough about their employees to hold them. It might be a good idea to send a thank you card some time within the following week.
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