With the holidays upon us, office holiday parties are underway. It is a time to be a little more social with the people you work with, in an atmosphere that is a little less work intensive. It can be a time to get to know your co-workers more personally, and employees at all levels of the organization can come together to share a little cheer.
And what could be wrong with that?
For the most part, it is a great idea. Some companies offer employees the chance to enjoy an afternoon off of work to intermingle during work hours (usually on work premises). Other companies want all employees to return to the job site in the evening, or they reserve a space at a local restaurant or other such venue. It is a nice gesture on behalf of the employer.
However, whether you are single, dating someone very new, or in a serious relationship there are certain holiday office part etiquettes to adhere to. They all revolve around one key principle: You Are Still At Work.
Do not get drunk. Just because it is an open bar does not mean you have an excuse to over-indulge. “Free” does not mean drinking to the point that you cannot walk straight. Know your limit, or just refuse to drink alcohol. You will have to work with these people the rest of the year. An embarrassing drunken incident could be held against you. With that said about alcohol, keep in mind that it is the season for colds and infections. Keep that in mind if you are taking an anti-biotic or other medication. Some medications react with alcohol. Remember you are still at work.
Leaving early is OK. If the holiday office party is taking place outside of normal work hours, it is OK to leave early. Not everyone has the same resources available, and if you are dependent on public transit, or you can only afford your babysitter for so long, or if you simply are not the kind of person that celebrates the holidays and want to leave before things get too uncomfortable for you, there is nothing wrong with excusing yourself early. Although some employers may push for you to stay out later than you can, it is up to you to do what is best for you and find a balance between your obligations to your employers and having your other needs met.
Do not look at a holiday office party as an opportunity to get closer to someone that you are interested in at the office. An office holiday party is not a time to make a pass at anyone, nor should you aim to have a make out session in the corner at last call. This is not just another night out with your friends. Remember you are still at work
Do not dress up like you are trying to score at a club. You are not there to bring in the New Year in with a kiss with one of your co-workers. Dress like you would for the office, or just a step above. This is not time to highlight your sex appeal. Remember you are still at work.
For those just starting to date someone new:
If you have just started to date someone new during, or right before, the holidays, it is not a good
idea to bring your newest partner to any office holiday parties. The newer you are as a couple, the less ideal it is to bring your new partner to holiday office parties. You really may not be able to predict how your date will interact and react to your co-workers. Your co-workers may share information about you to your date that you have not yet shared which could make for an uncomfortable situation. Depending how newly you have started dating, your date could end up flirting with and going home with one of your co-workers (I have heard stories about it happening in my coaching practice). Keep this separate. Do not bring a new date just to show off to your co-workers, as this isn’t a juvenile social contest. Remember you are still at work.
For those in serious relationships:
Some offices try to involve the long-term life partners and spouses to office parties for various reasons (some of which may be to try to dissuade employees from fraternizing in ways that would be too inappropriate for the work place). If your office party is inviting partners and spouses, make sure that you and your partner are on the same page. If there is a co-worker that is toxic, make sure your spouse knows who it is, so that the toxic co-worker does not try to get information from your spouse to use against you. If there is a co-worker that has made advances towards you that you have rejected, talk to your spouse ahead of time to make sure you both can handle any potential awkwardness with maturity. Depending on the career, how a spouse can support a person’s career social environment could be a major factor in the motivation to get into a serious relationship. Office holiday parties are a good example of why you both need to be on the same page. Remember you are still at work.
At best, a holiday office party can be a good memory of sharing joy with the people you work with. If you can’t manage that, at least make it something memorable enough for the right reasons. If you can’t manage that, then attempt to avoid making it memorable for all the wrong reasons. If you can’t manage that, you might be exploring your options in the New Year while on employment insurance. Happy Holidays! Remember you are still at work.