The Do’s And Don’ts For Your Office Christmas Party: 5 Rules To Help Your Career

There’s a line in the upcoming movie, Office Christmas Party that says, “Tonight the decisions you make will have consequences that’ll haunt you for the rest of your professional lives.” No truer words have been spoken.

Given that roughly two-thirds of companies will be honoring their employees with an office Christmas party, it makes sense to brush up on acceptable and unacceptable behavior, something that Wayne Hochwarter, professor at Florida State University, takes time to share with his students every year.

“Office parties are a very good opportunity to enhance your career if you do things the right way,” Hochwarter said, “and a really good way to kill your career if you don’t do things the right way.”

Some employees dread going to these events, while others revel in them for the wrong reasons, and anyone who has attended one knows of at least one colleague that over-did things, whether it was drinking too much are saying the wrong thing. Hockwarter gives some pointers on how to keep your office Christmas party more memorable than the Jennifer Aniston movie.

Drunk at the office Christmas party
Getting drunk at the office Christmas party is never a good idea for so many reasons.

Rule One: Don’t Get Drunk

While most consider this a “no-brainer,” it almost always happens and the last thing you want is a reputation as “the drunken fool,” says Hochwarter. However, getting blitzed at an office party can be easy to do if you’re not paying attention to yourself. The drinks are free, you’ve worked hard all year long, and you tell yourself that you “deserve” to let loose a little bit. The trouble is, don’t let loose too much.

Rule Two: Don’t Avoid Going to the Party

Sure, the easiest way to avoid making a fool out of yourself at the Christmas party is to just not go. Hockwarter says that isn’t a good idea either. By attending the shindig, you’re showing that you are part of the team and that you appreciate your boss’ efforts to say thank you for a year of work well done.

“I tell my students the Christmas party is a work party. Look at it as work,” Hochwarter said. “You may not want to go, but you might be ostracized if you don’t go. There’s a certain obligation to it.”

Rule Three: Watch Your Mouth

Avoid making conversation about controversial topics like politics and religion and do what you can to steer your boat out of conversational waters if need be. And just because you are at a party, don’t think of it as an excuse to use a bunch of foul language either. Don’t talk about work either. Nobody is attending to the party to get work done. They want to get to know their co-workers better. Instead, ask questions about co-worker’s families, upcoming holiday trips, or even chat about favorite Christmas movie.

Dress appropriately for the office Christmas party
Think "professional" when attending the company party. [Image by Matt]

Rule Four: Dress Appropriately

This goes for men as well as women. Some women will want an excuse to wear that sexy dress that’s been hanging in the closet, but if you couldn’t (or shouldn’t) get away with wearing it at work, you shouldn’t wear it at the Christmas party. Hochwarter himself has a story that a co-worker was told that the evening would be “causual” and wore the wrong thing.

“So, a guy in the Economics Department thought casual meant Hawaiian shorts. Casual in Mississippi means you can undo your tie, but he shows up in Hawaiian shorts.”


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Rule Five: Don’t Be Looking for a Date

Even though you are not “on the clock,” the office Christmas party is still a work-related event and should be treated as such.

“You go to an office party,” Hochwarter said, “you have a couple of drinks, get a little courage, go say hello and then all of a sudden they’re dating, and (bosses) are not sure about that. Or they were dating and now they’re fighting, and (bosses) know they don’t like that.”

Bonus Tip: Be grateful for the party and take time to tell the boss “thank you.” After the party, consider sending a handwritten note or a small group of flowers as another “thank you” gesture.

[Featured Image by Matt Cardy/Getty Image]