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Surviving the Office Holiday Party

December 2, 2010

It’s that time a year again, when we start feasting and celebrating the holidays, the end of the year, and more.  While this holds true for us personally, many of us will also be celebrating within our offices or attending external business-related holiday functions. 

As I write in my latest book, “It’s Not Who You Know, It’s How You Treat Them: Five SocialSmarts Secrets Today’s Business Leaders Need to Stand Out and Be Successful,

“..this is “one area in which social and business can become a dangerous mix. Many people forget that, while it is meant to be a social situation, it is still within the context of business.  We’ve all heard stories of the intoxicated employee who takes a photocopy of his hindquarters during the office celebration. But there are many less-obvious ways to go wrong when business and social are mixed in a party scenario.”

So, with that in mind, here are some tips you can use to sail through your next office celebration.

  1. Remember at all times and in all circumstances that this is a business function. What this means is that you should never say or do anything during the office party that you wouldn’t in the broad fluorescent light of the business day. Stifle the urge to share off-color or otherwise inappropriate jokes or gossip about higher-ups or co-workers.
  2. Keep in mind that, no matter what you are doing, someone may we watching or overhearing you.  As I say in the book, “What happens in Vegas will not stay in Vegas if “Vegas” is the office party.”
  3. Be particularly careful if alcohol is being served, as it often is.  If you do plan to drink, be careful — and not just because you may be driving afterwards.  There is a great deal of wisdom in the phrase “In Vino Veritas” (in wine there is truth), and alcohol can lower your normal inhibitions which can lead to embarrassing or even career-fatal moments.
  4. Another point about alcohol: beware of others perceptions. You may be drinking completely responsibly, but someone may have a different perception.  You may even be steering clear of drinking, but if you are in a group that has been imbibing and they get careless with their words or actions, it can reflect negatively on you as well.
  5. Be sure to mingle. You don’t want to be seen sticking to only one person or group the whole evening, regardless of how tempting it may be to hang with your normal crowd.
  6. Before you take your leave at the end of the event, make a point to thank the organizer(s) if this is practical.  If it’s a small party or a small group, be sure to express your gratitude to your boss or whoever the host is. Too many people skip out at the end of the party without stopping to share a word of appreciation to the people who arranged it.  The simple act of saying thank you and goodbye can leave a positive and lasting impression.
  7. Finally, although you may be tempted to just forego the office party because it’s too much of a hassle, or you don’t like being social with your co-workers, think before you decline.  As I share,

 “that decision can make or cripple your career.  Deciding to pass on an invitation to attend could be interpreted as elitism, or proof of your unwillingness to be part of the group. If you have a legitimate conflict, that’s fine. But being labeled as a consistent no-show can have a negative effect on your image.”

It’s always important to be an active participant in your business’ environment, and for many organizations, being able to be social in a business context is valuable.  Show that you can handle yourself positively and you may find it can be the difference between gaining the corner office or a lifetime in a cubicle.

Happy holidays to you and enjoy the feasts as the fall, one and all! I wish you every success now and in the coming year

For more tips on effective social skills for business leaders, join our discussions on Facebook at

(Excerpts above are all from the book It’s Not Who You Know, It’s How You Treat Them, Copyright 2010, All rights reserved.  For more information on the book visit

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