How to act right at the office party

Don’t let this be you at the office Christmas party.

It’s not so much about how to be appropriate at the company’s holiday party, as it’s about knowing what is inappropriate.

Like art or pornography, you should know it when you see it. But the ghost of “inappropriate” still seems to linger over many office holiday parties, causing otherwise rational, hard-working people to lurch through a drunken solo of “Margaritaville” before staggering into a co-worker’s shoulder for five solid minutes of weeping.

Don’t let this be you. Instead, follow accordingly:

Rule No. 1: Don’t get drunk.

Rule No. 2: Seriously, DO NOT GET DRUNK.

Honestly, it’s probably the reason every other inappropriate thing happens at a holiday party, but in the interest of making this advice column longer than this, we’ll keep going.

More companies are serving alcohol at holiday parties this year, according to an annual survey on holiday celebrations by the executive search firm Battalia Winston Amrop that was published on

Why? To find out who’s willing to get hammered at a holiday party. Stay sober, advance in the company and maybe someday you’ll be the one playing mind games with employees.

Rule No. 3: Wear clothes that are conservative but casual. If it has something written on the butt, if it at one point had sleeves but doesn’t anymore, if it would get you tossed out of Cactus Canyon for indecency, don’t wear it to the party. In fact, just go ahead and throw it away.

Rule No. 4: Talk about work or hobbies but not every intimate detail of your unfortunate personal life, unless someone genuinely says, “Tell me every intimate detail about your unfortunate personal life.” Talk about the tap dancing, talk about the garden — heck, talk about the fantasy football. But let’s keep details of the persistent rash or the restraining order to ourselves, m’kay?

Rule No. 5: Always let the boss talk. “Don’t outshine people who need the spotlight, or hold some aspect of job security in your hands,” advises John Challenger, chief executive of the worldwide outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. “The holiday party is a great time to build relationships. Don’t get into behaviors that might cause relationships to deteriorate or be damaged.”

Rule No. 6: You know what could damage an office relationship? Sex with a co-worker. This goes back to the first rule about getting hammered at a holiday party, i.e. DON’T.

Rule No. 7: Don’t sing, unless you can actually sing. And if you can sing, then choose something holiday-ish, like “Silent Night” or “White Christmas.” Never sing songs with profanity, songs about hating your job, songs with odd lyrics, or songs from artists with dollar sings in their names (we’re looking at you, Ke$ha).

Rule No. 8: Don’t criticize the caterer. The food is good and probably free. Eat it. Enjoy seconds. And thank those who offered to throw the party for you.


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