Holiday work parties, am I right?

It’s mid-December, and it’s pretty safe to say that if you have a job, you’ve probably just finished your all staff work party, or are gearing up for one very soon.  After work drinks, lunch out on the town, an evening at a swanky bar: doesn’t really matter where you’re celebrating, as long as you’re celebrating.

Office parties are a hugely important part of workplace culture: it’s a chance to show employees how much their contributions are valued, and it’s an incredible opportunity to get to know your coworkers outside of Excel spreadsheets and water cooler talk.

But here’s the thing.  If you’re all caught up on Netflix and have seen Office Party – or frankly any party on The Office – you know what I’m about to say:

Proceed with caution.

When you put a bunch of people in one room and add alcohol, you know the situation is already rife with potential to be a really fun – or really disastrous – night.  A few years ago someone told me the story of how their holiday work party became a dry event after one of the spouses had come to a previous year’s party, drank about two bottles of champagne, and spent the rest of the evening in tears, throwing up in the bathroom.

Cue the no “drinking policy” at every subsequent event.

From my own experience, one party stands out the most, when we were dressed to the nine’s in black velvet dresses (with cocktail gloves!), and feeling the holiday spirit, both literally and figuratively.  Bosses got up and made terribly inapporpriate speeches.  Employees got up and made terribly inappropriate speeches.  And Glen, the intern, drank so much that he put his tie around his head and dominated the dance floor.  No one was really complaining about that, lol, but still…

How to holiday party with your work crew, like a boss?  Here are the two cardinal rules you need to remember:

Know your audience, and know your limit.

1. Know your audience:

If you know your audience, you’ll be able to keep your actions – and words – in check.  You can definitely be you, let your true personality come through (unless you are an asshat, in which case, feel free to keep that repressed), and not be all worky-work at the party, but still keep a handle on your professionalism.

See this as an opportunity to build relationships with your employer / employees and coworkers, so when shit hits the fan on a project, you already have a solid understanding of each other beyond the context of client meetings, brand approval, deadlines, projected growth, and things going wrong.

It’s also an excellent chance to demonstrate, informally, all the good stuff that makes you YOU, a chance to start planting seeds for blue sky ideas you as a company can work towards together, simply borne out of an organic conversation you had while sitting and chatting with Nat King Cole in the background.

Take the time to chat with people you don’t know, and butterfly around a little.  We all have someone at work we could spend the party chatting and laughing with, and that’s a great thing!  But the office holiday party is a great chance to learn more about your colleagues, their lives, their skills, and what makes them THEM, so that future collaboration is more possible, and frankly more fun, knowing a little more about them than which commuter train they get on and off of.

Similarly, if you’re someone who has a harder time talking to people, use this as a chance to challenge yourself and step outside of your own comfort zone, and take the chance.  Take the chance to speak to the people you see or work with every day, without ever really knowing who they are.

2. Know Your Limits

And drink within them.

Hey, you introvert over there in the corner: that glass of wine (or five) you’re knocking back to take the edge off of socializing tonight?  Pay attention to exactly how much edge you’re taking off.

And you!  Yes, you extrovert over there who’s thrilled to finally break down the 9 to 5 wall and be the life of the party, with Campari chasing gin chasing the bourbon in your Negroni: we get it, you’re really happy to be out here, ripping it up.  We’re actually really happy you’re here too, making every single conversation easier for the rest of us.  Remember to keep a few things intact before you rip it all up, and have to start all over again…at a new job.

Either way it’s easy to get carried away by the moment, and there’s nothing quite like the cold pit of guilt, the horrible morning after gift of shame, waking up to a record scratching “wait, WHAT did I tell him last night?!”  So as a Pulp Fiction era John Travolta would say, “drink your drink, don’t be rude…” but don’t overdo it either.  Conversely, if you’re someone who abstains from alcohol, don’t feel the pressure to have a drink to be social.

And if you are that same person I mentioned above who finds it very difficult to be a part of the group?  It’s ok for you to know your limits too.  Go to the party, make your rounds, talk to the people, and find a comfortable time to head out early.  This is a time to show up and also express your appreciation for the work you do, in the job you have, with the people who employ you or work for you, so act accordingly by going…and honour your own needs by staying till it feels right for you to do so.

Office holiday parties are an awesome chance to come together, celebrate the magic of the season, get to know each other a little better, and have a lot of fun in the meantime.  See this event through exactly that lens, and you’re going to have a great time.

Without the mark of your tie across your forehead in the morning.

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