“Be positive, people are watching and you are leaving examples of who you are and what you are about. Promotions tend to go to people who are positive, optimistic and inspire others to work hard.” – Judy Robinett, author of How to Be a Power Connector
The office parties of the eighties are so passé. We’re not jumping out of cakes and singing drunken karaoke anymore – at least we hope not. Holiday parties don’t need to be dreaded, politically incorrect, and full of misogynistic slurs. We’re well past that Wolf of Wall Street mess. Here’s how to kick back, relax, and actually enjoy your December festivities with your colleagues.
Lesson 1: Show Up
In order to enjoy the party, you need to go to the party. Tempting as it may be to skip it all together, we urge you not to. Why? Whether your boss admits it or not, a piece of them will probably be looking for your presence (not your presents) at the holiday party. You don’t have to stay long; thirty minutes is a good minimum time limit if you have other obligations to make. At the very least, stay long enough to say hello to your boss. Career Horizons’ founder Matt Youngquist tells CNN Business, "A lot of corporate and promotional decisions, like when layoffs are happening, is as much about cultural fit as it is skills.” You don’t want to have “doesn’t play well with others” labeled across your forehead. If you’re in the upper level of management, not attending may come off as having a superiority complex. You don’t want to seem too good for those lower down the corporate ladder.
Lesson 2: Get Involved
Introverts, you don’t have to be left out of the fun. Volunteer to help plan the party. It gets you involved in a way that you otherwise might not be and automatically gives you something to do when you get to the party. Plus, you can bond with the other party planners. Talk about a built-in safety net pre-party.
Lesson 3: Spark Up a Conversation
Yes, this is a work related event. Yes, the major thing you have in common is work. But no one wants to talk to you about the big deal you just closed or the most recent merger while away from work. Don’t be that person. Use this opportunity to get to know your peers and even their dates. Company outings don’t have to be devoted to bitching about Jan in HR. If all else fails, talk about the hors d'oeuvres.
Lesson 4: “No New Friends”
This is no time to be antisocial. Say yes to making new friends. Go outside of your department and meet the other people within your company that are in that distant corner of the office no one ever sees. They exist, and they probably have a good story or two that you haven’t heard from that side of the world.
Lesson 5: Power Down
Keep your cellphone in your pocket. Take it out for networking purposes only, such as capturing numbers or adding your new friends on LinkedIn. Nothing says unapproachable like that faint blue light glowing on your face from the back corner of the party.
Lesson 6: Vodka Soda, Hold the Vodka
We know you know, but it can be easier said than done. Free booze. We get it. If you’re someone that reaches for a glass when in social situations, the drinks might flow a little too easily. We recommend a 2:1 approach. Two cups of water to every cocktail, beer, or glass of wine. Not only will it slow down the need to constantly be boozing, but you’ll be plenty hydrated by the end of the night. Ask for soda water with a lime and black straw if you don’t want to explain to people why you’re slowing down. No one should be asking that anyways though – it’s none of their business and this isn’t college. Grow up Kevin.
Lesson 7: Swipe Left on Bad Dates
If this is one of those “dates encouraged” parties, don’t panic. Do choose wisely. You don’t want to be the coworker that spends the entire night with their significant other in the corner. Leave PDA where it belongs: anywhere but the office holiday party (or the chapel). Nothing says office gossip on Monday like a sloppy make out in front of the washroom. We know that goes without saying. Worse than clingy though? Loud and obnoxious. That guy who won’t stop talking about his Ivy League degree and summer on Wall Street need not make an appearance. Not now, not ever for that matter. Your date inadvertently reflects you – bummer, we know. So play it safe.
Lesson 8: Know before you go
Ask if the party is formal or casual. You don’t want to show up in a pantsuit if it’s a jeans and sweater kind of event. Side note: there’s a big difference between formal and flirty attire. You will see these people at work next week. They will remember a nip slip. Trust us.
Lesson 9: “THank you, next”
It doesn’t matter how you say it, it only matters that you do. Thank you goes a long way to the party organizers who otherwise may feel under-appreciated and overworked. Planning is hard. You know that. It’s why you’re doing your family holiday party at your Aunt’s house this year. Also, word may get back to your supervisor that you were one of the few who went out of their way to thank the organizers. Brownie points? We’re not opposed.
Lesson 10: Enjoy yourself
Above all else (besides lesson 6, please heed that advice), enjoy yourself. This is a time to let loose in a fun environment. Besides, your company probably spent a decent chunk on this party, the least you can do is enjoy the food!