8 Tips to Survive Your Office Holiday Party

Second in the series on prickly holiday situations at work.

Liane Davey Ph.D.

The Holiday Party

Does the mention of the office holiday party evoke fond memories of fun celebrations or horrific flashbacks of career-limiting moves (your own or your colleagues’)? Holiday parties can be great for morale if you’re less naughty and more nice.

Here are a few tips to keep the festivities festive.

  1. Go. Yup, you should go, even if you’re groaning at the thought. Social gatherings are an important part of community and the best workplaces function like vibrant communities. Make the effort to attend, at least for a little while. If you don’t like a crowd, sit with a small group in a quiet spot.
  2. Make an effort to invite new people to walk or drive with you. That reduces the anxiety of arriving at a party where you don’t know many people.
  3. Dress for the occasion. Make some small effort to demonstrate your spirit. A snowflake tie tack; jingle bell earrings; green and red striped socks. You don’t have to go as far as my teammate Carol who has a hand knit Grinch sweater complete with bobbles and a peplum, but do something.
  4. Eat before drinking. One would think this could go without saying in the workplace, but most of us probably have a story about a drunken colleague at a holiday party. Make sure you get to the food before the drink, have a glass of water in between each drink, and quit while your ahead (and upright).
  5. Have your teammates’ backs.  If you see anyone behaving inappropriately, have the decency to whisper in their ear and help them make better decisions. Run interference to keep the boss away from someone behaving badly and know when to call a cab. You’d want someone to do it for you.
  6. Sit with different people. I know the holiday party is time to relax and that you want to be with your friends, so I’ll compromise. Spend half your time with people you know well and half with folks you don’t. If it’s a sit down meal, ask to change seats for the dessert course.
  7. Take the chance to have a different conversation than normal.  At one holiday dinner I went to years ago, we each shared the one present from childhood we still remember. (For me, Barbie Winnebago, hands down). My colleague Chris said what she most remembered was the saddle shoes she always wanted and never got. The story stuck with all of us and a few years later at her retirement party, we gave her a shiny new pair of saddle shoes.
  8. Be considerate of teammates who celebrate other holidays. My team is fortunate to have members who celebrate Hanukkah, Diwali, and Eid. I like to use the holiday party to ask about their traditions. I find them fascinating…just one more way diversity enriches our teams.

A little effort invested in your holiday party can lead to a fun time for you and a stronger work community for your team. How will you contribute to a successful holiday party?

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