Every year in mid-December, employers like to show their appreciation, largesse, and respect for holiday traditions with a soiree as grand as the company budget allows. There’s no better way to celebrate corporate bounty and bring employees together than a fun, relaxed gathering with plenty of free-flowing booze. Sounds like a great time, right?
There’s just one catch: As experienced employees know, the holiday party is not all about fun, it’s not the time guzzle drinks, and it’s certainly not time to let your hair down the way you might at a friend’s party. If you’re concerned about the growth of your career, don’t cut loose. You should treat this party as an opportunity, and consider it just another day (or night) at the office, even though you might be off-site.
Here’s how to have a great time at this year’s holiday party while ensuring your boss and coworkers still respect you in the morning.
Don’t waffle. Just go. Clear your schedule and show up. Don’t wait until the last minute to RSVP, don’t respond with a “maybe,” and don’t plan to make it a quick stop and then head for the door. Make a night of it. This event is management’s gift to their employees and should be handled with respect. If you can’t make the party, respond promptly with your apologies.
Bring your best self
Eat food with substance (like almonds or a cheese sandwich) before the party so that you’re armed with energy and steady blood sugar. You don’t want to have to depend on champagne and canapés for sustenance. Approach clients and colleagues you don’t already know and mingle like it’s your job…because it is. Instead of thinking about the fun you’re going to have (or the misery you’re going to endure), focus on making sure others have a good time. To do this, you’ll need to put on your game face and bring a genuine positive attitude.
Stop at two drinks
Fill your glass at the beginning of the event, drain it slowly, then move onto a few rounds of water or soda. In an hour or two, you’ll be ready for your second drink. A few hours later, and you’ll be ready to leave. Pacing is everything. If you’re losing track of the drinks you’ve had, you’ve had too many and it’s time to cut yourself off. Remember: This isn’t really a party. It’s work, and drinking at work is usually not a good idea.
During the regular workday, you may not feel comfortable talking about your family life, your friends, your hobbies or your personal past. It’s wise to follow that instinct, for the most part. But the holiday party gives you an opportunity to share some of your real personality while staying within the bounds of professionalism. While you’re at it, ask others about themselves and employ your listening skills when they answer. This is a great time to connect with those you rarely get to interact with during the workday.
Don’t make it all business
If you really want a deadline extension, a raise, a promotion, a more flexible project budget, or a certain plumb assignment, lay the groundwork by schmoozing with those who can help you, but don’t ask directly at the holiday party. There’s a time and a place, and if you engage in non-work-related banter now, you can follow up and get what you need later, during regular business hours.
The holiday party may seem like a great time to tell people what you really think — about a client, about a political event, or about an annoying colleague — but it isn’t. Always think before you speak, party or no party, especially if you have been drinking.
Take in the spectacle
When will you have another chance to sit with your boss and nerd out over your favorite movie franchise? When will you get to see Doris from accounting drunk and tearing it up on the dance floor? Or to flirt with your office crush without raising an eyebrow? Never again! At least not until next year. So enjoy the side of your coworkers that you rarely get to see. Just make sure you’re part of the audience, not the show.
For more on how to keep your career on an even keel as you navigate the drama of the holiday season, turn to the experts at LiveCareer.