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Office Christmas Party Tips

Updated on October 16, 2008

Often a Holiday party in the workplace is the chance to relax and celebrate. Just keep in mind, it’s work. It’s not a causal social occasion; it’s a work function just like a meeting would be.

Should you go? -

Absolutely. Absentia will be noticed. Remember in most companies, your goal is to show that you are part of the team. Fitting in is paramount. Standing out is often a mistake. Not attending the party is as bad missing a meeting.

What to wear –

Again, you want to show the upper-ups that you fit in with this organization. You want to look professional. If you’re really in doubt, wear what you would wear to a very important meeting. Unless your manager hands out elf hats to your entire department, do not dress whimsically. A holiday scarf, tie, or broach is more than enough festivity. Unless your office attire is always casual, do not dress casually. And above all, do not show too much skin.

What to bring –

Unless it has been made very clear that wives/husbands are invited, do not bring a guest.

Do not bring your work agenda, blackberry, or laptop. This is not the venue to show what a workhorse you are.

Do not bring a bottle or a dish to contribute unless you’ve been asked to do so. As polite as that is in social settings, it has a familiarity to it that the company may not be aiming toward.

If you had planned to give a few holiday gifts, this is the appropriate time to do so. When gift giving in the office, do not leave out anyone from a group. If you manage a team of 3 sales reps, do not give a gift to only one or two; it has to be all of them, or none of them. If you’re new in the company, it would be wise to ask someone who’s been there longer in a position lateral to yours what the norm is. Many companies frown on gift giving so it would be wise to find out ahead of time. If your department does a Grab-Bag or Kris-Cringle, participate. In many cases it is appropriate to “gift down” which means you give a token of your appreciation to your staff, but it is unnecessary to give one to your boss.

Gifts should never be personal. Things like perfume, clothing, knick-knacks or home items are out of place. Also try to avoid religion specific gifts, like nativity pieces even if you are sure of the person’s beliefs. Unsure of what to get? Stick with lunch. Everyone takes a lunch break. A gift card to a local restaurant or a Starbucks is tasteful and appropriate. It’s safe to get everyone you’re planning to buy for the same thing. That way it never appears that you’ve played favorites. You can always keep a few extra gift certificates and holiday cards in your pocket in case you receive an unexpected gift from a coworker, you can reciprocate on the spot so it doesn’t look like you didn’t think of them.

What to consume –

If your office party is in a restaurant or someone’s home, there’s a chance there will be alcohol. This can be tricky. If you drink, then you should. Clearly the fact that the company chose a venue where they’d be able to celebrate with spirits says something. However, remember that you are being watched. Limit yourself to only one or two drinks tops. You never want to slur in front of your boss, or tell your coworker what an ass you think he is.

As far as the food selection goes, engage. Don’t criticize the food no matter what. Do not tell everyone you’re on a diet or can’t eat certain things. Smile politely and eat what you can. Someone did some work selecting the food items; you do not want it to get back to anyone that you were ungrateful and judging.

What to say –

Make sure you thank the appropriate people for the party. Make it a point to shake some hands and offer your praise of the festivities. Your department leader, the human resources crew, and the head of your company are due a “thank you” from you. Compliment their efforts. Tell them everyone is having such a good time, and the cheese platter was excellent.

Make small talk. This is your chance to rub elbows with some of the people with whom you do not normally interact. Make sure to listen as much as you talk; you don’t want to do too much of either. Try to stay clear of taboo subjects like politics, religion, or sex. Activities and businesses in your area like art galleries, movies, local sports, plays, shops and restaurants are often great ice-breakers and include everyone in the conversation.

Do not talk about work. Unless a superior asks you a specific work – related question, steer clear of letting anyone think you’re using the party to showcase your business ideas and work ethic.

Try not to compliment anyone on his or her attire. I know this sounds odd. But many an office atrocity has begun with such a simple thing. People whisper, especially people that have had a glass of champagne. An innocent compliment can be misconstrued in the re-telling as a come-on. And god forbid you compliment one person, and not another who perceives their outfits as being the same. That can be taken as favoritism. I know of one gentleman who was put on probation at work for sexual misconduct for complimenting one of the women’s holiday sweaters. It was meant in the most sincere way, and it was taken in the most flirtatious way. It was even stated that he “had” to have been looking at her chest to have even noticed the sweater. I know of another instance where the administrative assistant complimented her boss’s suit, saying simply that he looked very handsome. The boss’s wife had her fired the following week. Don’t put yourself in the situation.

Be mindful that everyone is at this party, and everyone is watching everybody else. This is not the time to tell anyone you’ve had a crush on them. If you have to flirt with a coworker do it privately, NOT at an event that’s attended company-wide. This is also not the time to give any subordinate any criticism. What will you do if she winds up crying in the ladies room, or re-tells what you said after two red wines? The entire company is present. It’s not time to say anything that might draw attention.

If you are standing in a small group and you feel the conversation has taken a turn for the worse, excuse yourself. Get out fast. Say something like, “Excuse me there seems to be more cheese puffs,” or “I seem to have misplaced my pen,” and walk away immediately. You do not want to be included in any office gossip or coworker bashing while everyone you work with is there.

Who should you talk to –

Certainly anyone that tries to converse with you should be high on your list. However, these kinds of business functions are uncommon. This isn’t the time to spend with the people you have close quarters with every single day. Seize this opportunity to meet and talk to people in other departments, especially those more advanced in the company than yourself. Shake hands and smile. Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself if you aren’t sure if someone knows your name. It’s much better to hear, “Of course, I know who you are!” than to hear, “And who are you?”

Do not dominate anyone’s time. Even if it feels like the conversation is going well, you should excuse yourself if it appears someone else is trying to get some face time with your new acquaintance.

When to leave –

Someone has to be the first to go, and someone has to be the last. But neither of them has to be you. Somewhere in the middle is best. If you really aren’t sure where that is, than follow your boss’s lead. When you see them go for their coats, follow suit.

Unlike a family gathering, you are not obligated to say good-bye to anyone. You can retreat quietly whenever you’re ready without having to go around and wish everyone a good night.

The exception to that is if the party is being held in someone’s home. Not only are you obligated to find them and let them know you had a wonderful time and you’re about to leave, you should also send a thank you note or email soon after the party as a formal thank you for having been invited. Whether it’s the president of the company holding the party at his Hampton’s estate, or one of the people parallel to you having the party in his bi-level, you were an invited guest in someone’s home. Show the proper respect.

If you like this HUB please click the “Thumbs-Up” below just before the comments.


All text is original content by Veronica.

All photos are used with permission.

All videos are used courtesy of Youtube.


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    That has cheered me up a little. Dreading this years office party after hearing one of the other employees (who last year had too much to drink and tried to persuade married men to peck her on the lips) has bent the bosses ear into having it Friday evening the week before Christmas. Traditionally it is done the last day of work and the thought of giving up a Friday night I could be with my friends is not sitting well!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Ive really missed your wonderful writings Veronica. Glad to be reading them again :) Are you open to receiving new questions ?

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from NY


    Don't cancel a trip or make special travel arrangements to do so. But if your vacation involves staying close to home where it is fairly convenient to attend the luncheon, then yes you might consider going.

    Just as I discussed above regarding other situations, I advise you to take your cue from your bosses. Again remember: at this point in your career you want to show you fit in and share the same basic philosophy of the work place in general. Have you noticed your boss, or their boss, attending a luncheon or holiday party while out on vacation? If they have, then you should too. It shows team spirit and a real commitment and loyalty to the company, not just the job.

    If you've noted that no one ranked higher than you has come to a work-social while on vacation, then follow in that path. Some companies really support the idea that you need to make a break from the job once in a while. You don't want to seem over-zealous.

    If you're new or haven't noticed one way or the other, in a formal office setting it's best to ask your direct supervisor. In a company where there's real concentration on being a team player, your offer to attend the function will go a long way.

    I suggest an email with a positive beat to it. Something like: 'I'm on vacation on X date which coincides with our office luncheon. Since I'll be at home for this part of my week off, I'd be glad to attend. Please advise."

    Obviously you don't want to be leading or negative. "Do I have to go?" = Not a good idea.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Should you attend your office luncheon while you are on vacation leave?

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY

    Thanks favoraffair!

  • favoraffair profile image


    9 years ago from Atlanta, GA

    Great reminders Veronica, especially since Christmas is right around the corner!I love how add what to bring--do not bring your blackberry or work agenda! Love it!

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from NY



    A "Thank you" email that is sent to all of them would also be appropriate.

    Exactly what you stated above is the kind of thing those people want to hear for their efforts. It's professional, and it shows you are the kind of employee that doesn't take these kinds of things for granted.

    You always want to stay away from anything personal in these kinds of notes. Don't add what you did with their generous gift, like what you spent it on or where you placed something in your home. Don't discuss other party guests by name, don't compare specifics to any other office function.

    I think your thoughtfulness will be appreciated and will also reflect well on you.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    I have a question that tag on to this topic, this year my office had it's Christmas party at a nice restaurant, the staff were also given very generous gifts especially considering the economical siuation, it exceded my expectations, would it be appropriate to send a written thank you card to the boss and the HR-person arranging the party.

  • profile image

    Nice Guy 

    11 years ago

    Great Hub! I never thought about how a simple compliment on someone's attire could be misconstrued or relayed with an agenda. Thanks for the warning! You're right, why take a chance. There are better ways to conduct yourself at work functions.

  • Isabella Snow profile image

    Isabella Snow 

    11 years ago

    Great hub!!! For some reason I didn't get a notification that it was published, but I'm glad I found it anyway! Welcome back!

  • glassvisage profile image


    11 years ago from Northern California

    This is some very good advice... I'm starting to get into the work world and parties have been coming into play... :)

  • Earth Angel profile image

    Earth Angel 

    11 years ago

    Thanks Veronica!! Actually I am the Founder, President and CEO of Earth Angel Publishing!! I suppose if I (as the boss) were the one "dancing on the tables" I could get away with it!! Alas, I am a big fan of the Golden Rule!! I do not expect any better behavior from my employees than I do of myself!! I also do not expect any less!! As a leader, I set the standards!! I think your comments and recommendations are excellent!! Thank you for sharing!! Blessings, Earth Angel!!

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    11 years ago from NY

    Thanks so much, Earth Angel!

    I agree, it's a shame. the big key to remember is, it's a work function. Forget the word "party", retain the word "office" and you'll be just fine.

  • Earth Angel profile image

    Earth Angel 

    11 years ago

    GREAT reminders Veronica!! I have seen sooooooooooooooo many people make complete fools of themselves at office parties!! The hard work of an entire year may be lost in an evening of inappropriate behavior!! Good advice!! Blessings, Earth Angel!!


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