Manners Matter: How to Behave at Work Holiday Party

Dear Mary Pat,

I overindulged at my office party and not only did I wake up with a brutal hangover, I also can’t look certain co-workers in the eye. Some of the details are a little fuzzy, but I know I got into a political debate with my peer’s wife and may have also insulted the guy who is in charge of HR and payroll. I’m not a big drinker usually, but it was a festive atmosphere and free drinks were flowing. Anyway I can recover from this?


Blotto at Christmas Work Party

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.


Dear Blotto at Christmas Work Party,

This is a mistake that many have made. It doesn’t take much to turn a person from carefree after two glasses of wine to the office clown after the third one.

You can most likely rebound from this socially and professionally. The first thing to do is apologize to those you argued with and insulted. Wouldn’t hurt to ask a trusted friend at work to see if it was just the wife of your peer and the HR guy that you graced with your charm or were there possibly other victims too? Depending on the level of your insult, maybe a small gift card and a thoughtful apology note wouldn’t hurt. The second thing you need to do is make sure history doesn’t repeat itself at the next office social gathering. See my suggestions below.

How NOT to embarrass yourself at the office holiday party:

  1. Stay off of all political topics, even if you can do a great Hillary or Donald impression. Seriously, it never ends well. Leave the political commentary to cable.
  2. Eat a snack before you get the party. And another one once you get to the party. And maybe graze some more if you are fond of adult beverages. It’s better to have one too many bruschetta versus one too many gin and tonics.
  3. Just because the drinks are free to you doesn’t mean that someone isn’t paying for them. Don’t be a liquor glutton. It would really be startling if you single handedly overspent the 2015 budget due to your love of open bars.
  4. Arrive on time and leave the party before things get wild. Even if you see people cutting loose and breaking all the rules I have mentioned so far, that does not give you permission to do the same. No one wants to see you impersonate Miley Cyrus on the dance floor. If you think you are a really good dancer, you probably have broken rule #3 already.
  5. Alternate your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks. People always seem to want to be holding a drink when talking to each other in a group. Some kind of security blanket possibly. Order a club soda with lime and you’ll still have something to sip on that won’t harm your chances for a raise.
  6. Thank your host/hostess. Even if your boss can stress you out or cause pre-mature grey hair, always be gracious and thank them for throwing the party.
  7. Make sure that you and your co-workers have designated drivers lined up before the first drink is consumed. Think about the damage to your career and life if your name showed up in the newspaper for driving under the influence. And far worse, someone could be injured or killed. Never worth the risk. Never.
  8. Don’t bring gifts to the office party unless everyone is included or it’s some kind of a grab bag. Save the presents for your close work friends when you aren’t in a group setting.
  9. Dress for the occasion. Your best flannel won’t be dressy enough, but no need to break out that sequined party dress with a plunging neckline either. Be tasteful and dress up in an understated way.
  10. Try to get to know your co-workers on a social level and avoid too much office talk. Your spouses/dates really aren’t going to want to participate in a marathon session about your projected growth in Q1 2016. Also avoid sucking up to your boss, since he/she will probably see right through it. And DO NOT use this party setting as the time or place to vent about the things your co-workers do to drive you crazy.

Some of these rules apply to regular holiday parties and family get-togethers. Behave yourselves.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

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