7 Things You Should Never, Ever Do At a Holiday Office Party
Office party etiquette for dummies

December 14, 2017

man in a christmas hat who is drunk

You see your coworkers almost every day of the year, so spending more time with them at your holiday party probably isn’t high on your list.

But there are some professional perks to making an appearance outside of your cubicle, says Alison Green, the career expert behind the blog Ask a Manager.

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“There’s benefits to having some visibility, to being seen as someone who is polished enough and social enough to have a presence at that kind of event,” says Green.
You could make new connections, impress your boss with your humour, or even just show your coworkers that you’re a team player.

Still, that company party is a work event disguised as a social event. So here are 7 things you should skip at the bash if you want to make the most of it – and keep your stellar work reputation intact.

Office Party Mistake #1: Getting There Too Early – And Leaving Too Late

Arriving a little early to a meeting can show you’re prepared.

But showing up before the party starts won’t do you any favours, says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, founder of the Protocol School of Texas.

If the event is at someone’s home, showing up early can make the host feel uncomfortable.

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He or she will feel like the need to entertain you instead of finishing the party prep, she explains.

So shoot to arrive anytime within 10 minutes after the start of the party. Trying to be “fashionably late” makes it seem like you’re trying to make a grand entrance, and can disrupt the flow of the party and the other guests, Gottsman says.
Hanging around too long when the party’s beginning to wind down can be awkward, too. So when you see other guests gathering their coats to leave, that’s your cue to do the same, she says.

Office Party Mistake #2: Showing Up With A Random Date

Ask whoever is coordinating the event if you can bring a plus one, says Green. Some offices don’t mind if you bring a friend, while others only allow significant others as dates.

In some office cultures, it can come off as a bit “professionally immature” to bring a random date, she says.

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“It’s sort of saying, ‘I don’t feel like I can hold my own and I need a support system,’” says Green.
Plus, if your date’s behaving badly—say, drinking too much or dirty dancing—it will make you look like you have bad judgment, even if you didn’t make the faux pas yourself, says Green.

Office Party Mistake #3: Not Following The Dress Code

Everyone loves a good ugly Christmas sweater, so if your invite specifies it, make a fun attempt at being festive, says Gottsman.

But if the invite says business-professional, keep your light-up Santa sweater at home.

Otherwise, it sends the impression you don’t care about how your coworkers look at you, she adds.

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Same goes for a more formal party if you show up in jeans and a T-shirt—this will look like you don’t have the professional savvy to have thought about the dress code, says Green.

Lots of offices keep it casual, though, she says. So just ask someone who’s coordinating the party about the dress code.

Office Party Mistake #4: Going Heavy On The Booze

Duh: Avoid getting hammered in front of your boss.

“For all of the same reasons you hopefully wouldn’t get drunk at a business meeting, you don’t want to do it at an office party, either,” she says. “You could do something that could damage your reputation for a long time.”
And it’s naïve to believe that your reputation is just based on your work quality—it’s everything people see of you. So limit the booze to keep your judgment intact, Green says.

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“If you can handle a couple of drinks without it impairing your judgment, there’s no reason you can’t have them at an office party,” she says. “Just make sure that you’re not doing it on an empty stomach or anything else that might move you closer to the tipsy line than you would normally be.

Office Party Mistake #5: Spending The Night On Your Phone

The office party is your chance to shine, but constantly tapping away at your phone can make you seem disinterested in the people around you, says Gottsman.

Plus, not only will it look like you don’t want to be there, but it also sends the message that your professional social skills are lacking, Green says.
So resist the urge by keeping your phone out of reach.

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And whatever you do, avoid posting photos to social media. This can make things really awkward if one of your coworkers doesn’t want their photo online, says Gottsman.

Office Party Mistake #6: Clinging To One Person The Entire Time

“Don’t just stick to the people you know really well,” says Gottsman. “This is your opportunity to talk to people you don’t see every day in the office.”
The whole point you’re there is to make a good impression and build relationships, right? So get out there and mingle, says Green.

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Getting to know the IT guy or the front desk clerk can only work in your favor someday, since they’re often the ones to fix problems you’d rather not deal with.

Office Party Mistake #7: Defaulting To Work Talk

When you find yourself one-on-one with boring Bob from accounting, you may be stumped on what to talk about—so you start with shop talk.

But that’s not the best course of action, says Gottsman. Carrying an interesting conversation can leave a positive lasting impression on people, and that’s what you want when you’re in a room full of your colleagues (and your boss).

Now, it’s inevitable that some work talk will filter in, but if it’s all you plan on discussing, you might as well be sitting around a conference table in a meeting, says Green.
If you do end up in a business-related conversation, try to keep it positive, suggests Gottsman, like congratulating someone on a recent promotion.

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To steer the conversation away from work, try bringing up recent movies you’ve seen, the food at the party, or vacation plans, says Green.

And if the ever-dreaded awkward silence hits, just say “It was great talking to you,” and move on—you’re there to mingle, after all.