The Office Party Etiquette Guide

‘Tis the season for the Office Holiday Party! Enjoy and celebrate, but be warned: If you work in a modern office setting, don’t approach this like you’re a Kardashian in a Las Vegas nightclub. If you’re a novice or entry-level employee and you’re new to the office party scene, you may be scratching your head—after all, parties are supposed to be fun, right? What could possible go wrong? Plenty, that’s what. And the rules are not at all simple. The social dynamics that factor into regular life and workplace life are different, and while your office party may seem like an opportunity to relax and let loose with your coworkers, it’s actually just another few hours of work. Take it seriously, and keep these guidelines in mind.
  1. Go.

If there’s any possible way to make it work, show up. Don’t opt out. Find a sitter, cancel your other engagements, and go. Do your best to put your party hat on and add some gaiety to the scene. This starts with showing up and acknowledging the time and effort that went into planning this event.
  1. Recognize that you’re on trial.

Your behavior, clothing, and conversational skills will be under the microscope from the first minute of the party to the last. Don’t fight this; just accept it and make the most of it. Your boss and your direct reports will be trying to figure out what kind of person are you outside of the office? This is your time to answer that question, so answer it well.
  1. Don’t drink too much.

This should go without saying, but stay in control of your faculties. This is not the time to push the limits. In fact, if think you can survive this event while sober, don’t drink at all. Carry a glass in your hand, but stay in control of what’s in it. If you really think sobriety will make you seem like nerd, try the old pregnant lady’s trick and drink club soda with a wedge of lime. Nobody has to know.
  1. Mix it up.

Don’t allow yourself to get trapped in the corner by the office chatterbox. Keep moving, and make sure you shift conversation partners several times throughout the evening. Whenever anyone glances at you from across the room, they should see you smiling, talking, listening attentively to others, and circulating from person to person.
  1. Don’t turn the tables.

Just because you’re being scrutinized, and just because this party is actually an ordinary workday (or night), only with higher stakes, that doesn’t mean you have to fan the flames. Your coworkers may be mentally reviewing you, but try not to take the same approach and put the same pressure on your colleagues. Let them be human beings. If they’re young, let them be young. Don’t judge, snark, or clutch your pearls if they’re having a good time, whatever that may mean to them. Raise the bar for yourself and lower it for those around you, just like you would under any other circumstances. — Earn respect and show respect to others, and you’ll make it through the season with your job intact. And if your plans fall through, turn to MyPerfectResume to start looking for your next gig.