How to be a GrownUp at the Office Party

Every year, hundreds of well-meaning people jump off the career ladder and don’t know it. They attend the office holiday party and in one, epic-fail moment of misguided relaxation, kill their career. When the company dumps them right after New Year, they don’t remember that the problem started at the holiday party.

So let me be plain: Holiday parties are not for having fun. They are for proving you can behave well in public and know how to dress appropriately (Hint:  no flip-flops). Here, for those who may have trouble navigating the office party scene, some hints:

Don't play with the office ornaments.

1. Even if there is an open bar, do not have more than two drinks. Don’t drink often? One is plenty. A holiday party is not for losing your head or being the “real” you. At best it is a networking opportunity, at worst it is a chance to prove you can behave in public. Slurred speech, bleary eyes and loudly insisting you are “fine to drive” doesn’t fool anyone.

2. Crying, vomiting, or taking off any portion of your clothing is not part of a holiday party. It might have been fine at college. Work isn’t college. Stick to club soda or juice when you start to feel frisky and funny.

3. Unless you are a professional, do not give in to the urge to sing or dance on stage, with a microphone or in a spotlight. Cell phone cameras will have you on YouTube tomorrow, just when that company you submitted your resume to is checking your profile and finding the link.

4. Stay away from the copy machine. You don’t need to be there at an office party and the temptation to photocopy body parts increases with liquor consumption.

5. No matter how hot your boss’s spouse looks, not matter how

If you spill your drink, it's time to stop refilling it.

flirty the CEOs date, do not, under any circumstances, reply in kind. The bigger the age difference, the less you should engage them in any conversation. If you think I’m not serious, rent and watch an old movie called The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman.

6. Do not discuss your promotion or engage in self-promotion at the party. Of any kind. No bragging, no self-inflating. Do not take the opportunity to snark on anyone who isn’t there. No one likes to keep someone else’s ego inflated at the holiday part. Slimy behavior engages the karma wheel, which grinds exceeding fine.

7. This is not the time to pull off your glasses, fluff up your hair and be the inner animal you’ve always wanted to be. This is also not the time to wear anything that flashes, jingles, or glows in the dark. That’s for your own party, at another time. Wear party clothes that are appropriate for your age and figure. Spandex is tricky to wear and still be thought of as chic. The same is true for pink stretch fleece.

8. Avoid the person holding the camera or video equipment. If they ask you to do the solo from “Billy Elliot,” the full-body spelling of Y.M.C.A., or the hysterical imitation of the guy in accounting, feign ignorance, even if you have left people in the kitchen in stitches with the routine. (See warning in #3, above.)

9. Don’t be the last one to leave. Do not be the first one to leave either. If figuring this out causes you a headache, put your drink down, switch to club soda.

10. Learn to enjoy yourself with all the restrictions. Sometimes that’s as good at is gets.

Quinn McDonald has been to many holiday parties, some of which she would prefer not to remember. She is a writer and certified creativity coach who teaches Workplace Communication.