In the new holiday movie Office Christmas Party, a hard partying manager of an office branch about to be closed joins with his Chief Technical Officer to throw an epic holiday party.  Hilarity ensues, and the entire office and all of it’s occupants get trashed.  In real life, things rarely if ever get that far out of hand, but before you go, it’s worth thinking about what the annual holiday party is and what it really isn’t. 

The annual holiday party is pitched as a fun event to get together, celebrate the holidays and the years accomplishments, and let off a little steam.  Depending on the size of your company, and budget, it may be a hotel ballroom, a restaurant in the city, at the CEO’s home, or simply in the office after work.  Many people in the company, the extraverts among them, look forward to the party, but others, often the introverts in the group, approach it with dread.  And many people wake up the next morning feeling hung over and regretting what they said and who they ended up with.  

Here’s what you need to keep in mind to get through the evening unscathed.  No matter how relaxed your office culture feels, how close you are with your coworkers and bosses, or where the party takes place, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the office holiday party is still “WORK”.  What you say and what you do will have consequences the next day, so tailor your behavior accordingly.  Dress in business appropriate attire.  Yes, you can be festive, but think dinner party, not dance club!  And although the bar may be open, pay careful attention to how much you drink.  For most people one or two drinks is the maximum for the evening.  Stay sober.  This is a great opportunity to get to know a different side of your colleagues (Wow! Jen does amazing karaoke! Dave is an awesome drummer!), but make sure the new side of yourself you are sharing is one you want to be remembered for.

Your holiday party can be a genuinely nice place to enjoy your coworkers in a relaxed atmosphere, and to meet new people if you work in a larger company.   It’s a great opportunity to network, so keep track of who you want to get to know better, and follow up with an email the next day to set up a coffee or lunch.  But that’s as far as this should go.  The holiday party is not the time for a hookup, with a coworker, and especially not with a manager.  Of course office romances and relationships develop all the time, and holiday hookups look like a lot of fun in the movies, but in real life holiday party hookups most often lead to next morning regrets, and sometimes cost people their jobs.

So feel free to let loose with your family and friends over the holidays, but at the office holiday party, remember to stay professional with coworkers, no matter how the party is described.

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