Christmas Party Survival Guide
Unspoken Rules of the Evening
Back in the day, it was customary for businesses to thank their employees with a holiday party. The annual "Company Christmas Party" is (or was) legendary. In this economy, such festivities may be scaled back or eliminated entirely.
However, if you're lucky enough to
a) still have a job, in
b) a company that's having a holiday party,
I offer this unofficial guide to help you get through the evening unscathed -- and still employed.
Party Tested Disasters
As is typical of my hubs, I will be speaking from personal experience -- if not my own, people I know personally (which still counts as personal experience, right?). Every one of the scenarios actually happened. Names have been changed to protect the embarrassed parties.
1. Establish your personal party objectives
Different employees approach the Holiday Party (HP) with different motives. For some,it's an opportunity to dress up in their glittery finest. If you happen to be a male employee, you might want to reconsider the glitter (unless you are blatantly "out" at work and everyone's cool with that).
Many see it as a well-deserved reward. Their one and only intention is to have a grand old time on the company's dime.
Still others plot and plan their strategy. They know they will have a captive audience of company brass. Now's their chance to whisper in the boss's ear and earn brownie points for their brilliant ideas.
And finally, there's the employee with a grudge. It may be against the institution itself, or it could be a nemesis who's just begging to be "shown up" and "put in his/her place."
2. Beware party dress malfunctions
You've waited all year . You've scoured the stores for the perfect outfit. You have one goal and one goal only: dress to impress. Inevitably, this means showing some cleavage. It's a party, for goodness sake. Forget your role in the workplace. Tonight's about strutting your stuff.
I would caution you, however. When selecting your party dress, test it out. I don't mean just looking at it from all angles in the mirror. I mean test it while sitting, standing, bending, reaching, and most especially, dancing.
No matter how brief, no matter if the whole room sees it or just one person, It's almost impossible to recover from the dance floor flash. Previously a senior vice president or the firm's star saleswoman, you'll forever be referred to as "the one who flashed boobage at the Christmas party."
2. Watch out for those wives
This is another tip directed at you working women (not to be confused with you working girls, whose holiday parties have a very different set of rules).
It's a funny phenomenon. You work alongside these men every day. You have a relationship with them that is based on achieving business objectives together. However, they have a life outside of work (as you do). They have a wife and a family at home.
On this night, their home life invades your work life. The result is often a culture clash.
This may sound awful, but it's been my experience. Rarely, if ever, do the workplace women have a problem with the wives. I wish I could say the opposite.
Here is a true story, and this one IS based on my own experience.
Months after the company HP my boss called me into his office. Sheepishly, he admitted that he'd been asked to "talk to me" about an action I had supposedly taken at the Christmas party. Apparently I had been a little too cozy with a male colleague. I linked my arm in his and exclaimed what a nice party it was. I may have even said I enjoyed working with him! Horrors!
Well, the colleague's wife saw the interaction and became incensed. She hounded her husband every day. He prevailed on our mutual boss to address it with me.
Obviously my boss did not think the issue very serious. I think he hoped by ignoring it it would just go away. But after three months of hounding he decided the only way to get the wife to calm down was to tell her I'd been soundly rebuked.
Of course, the original "incident" was innocent. And three months later I'd pretty much forgotten it. I was, frankly, shocked at the whole thing.
Come to find out, the wife's overreaction was based on prior experience. It seems her hubby had had an affair (or more than one) with a fellow worker. I had no clue. Nor did I have any -- and I do mean ANY -- interest in her husband. Ew!
I learned a valuable lesson, which I pass on to you here. You have every right to be yourself and enjoy yourself. But keep your radar up -- and your hands to yourself!
3. Speaking of keeping your hands to yourself...
This is another true story from the my own vault. I did not witness it, but have it on good authority.
A young associate and his lovely wife (uh oh, another wife story!) were standing near the bar. For reasons unknown to me (and really irrelevant for the purpose of this Hub) the wife got into it with a female employee.
The fact that the female employee worked in the mail room is neither here nor there, but does add an audacity factor to the story. Like it or not, workplaces are hierarchies. A mailroom worker is dispensible, whereas the firm would obviously protect its investment in the associate and take the side of the associate's wife (even if she was wrong).
I don't think anyone expected a cat fight! After all, this was a very elegant party hosted by a very dignified law firm. But there they were, swinging and clawing, screaming and swearing. Another memorable HP moment.
My point here is this: Do NOT let your emotions get the better of you. If you find yourself getting overwrought, take a break, take a walk, or leave.
4. Avoid the amorous
A couple of cocktails, wine on the table, and inhibitions float away on the holiday breeze.
Unfortunately, this can lead some revelers to reveal their innermost feelings in inappropriate ways. The HP may seem like a good place to express your secret crush on that cute colleague in the next cubicle. Trust me, it is not.
Another no-no is cruising on the dance floor. Another true story, reported to me by a reliable (and very shocked) male colleague/friend. Apparently he was dancing away, minding his own business, when out of the blue, a female colleague propositioned him. She was very explicit about her intentions, as well as her superior talents in this arena. This guy does not blush easily, but he turned as red as Santa's hat.
Ladies -- or I should say "cougars" -- we are not here to prowl. Have some dignity, please.
And gentlemen, the same goes for you. The HP is not a hookup station. It's a business function.
5. Stag or saddled?
If you don't happen to be married or have a significant other/steady, you have a choice of going to the HP solo or bringing a date.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. If there are others going solo you may have a better time meeting up (not hooking up-- see #4 above) with them. However, being the lone single in a land of couples can be uncomfortable.
On the other hand, if you bring a date (and this also applies to a spouse/SO) you are responsible for showing that person a good time. Which means balancing your time between him/her and socializing with your colleagues.
You are also responsible for the behavior of your guest. Be careful who you invite. You don't want your date to be the one people remember for all the wrong reasons (see above).
6. Moderation in all things
Last, but certainly not least, is the one tip that can help you avoid all of the other pitfalls described above: Control yourself!
This suggestion applies to all aspects of your behavior. For example:
1. Don't be the wild and crazy break dancer on the floor unless you are confident in your place in the company.
2. Don't be a pig. There is enough shrimp for everyone.
3. Be punctual. You are not going to impress anyone with arriving "fashionably late" to a sit-down dinner. It gives the impression you think you have more important things to do in your life. Not the impression you want to give your employer.
4. Don't be the last to leave, either. If you want to continue partying, take it elsewhere.
5. An open bar can be oh so seductive. It's the holidays, the end of the year, you're stressed/tired/whatever. But you do not want to be the one passed out in the bathroom or whoopsing into your napkin. You really, really do not want to wake up the next morning -- hung over -- and remember it was your boss who poured you into a cab.
Bottom HP line: Do not overindulge.
Virtually all of the problems cited above can be easily avoided by keeping a cork in the wine bottle, interspersing drinks with water.
Final word to the wise
Have a good (not wild) time.
Keep it in perspective.
You may have to hold back a little bit, but you do at work anyway.
Get through the HP and you can reward yourself by going all out on New Year's Eve!
And remember, you have 364 days until the next one!!!