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Christmas Party Survival Guide

Updated on November 19, 2010
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

You can make it sweet ...or sour.
You can make it sweet ...or sour.

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.

You are not fooling anyone with that Rudolph nose!
You are not fooling anyone with that Rudolph nose!

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."

That's four accidents waiting to happen.
That's four accidents waiting to happen.

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."

No way. That's not even my shade!
No way. That's not even my shade!

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.

Uh oh. The shoes are off. What's next?
Uh oh. The shoes are off. What's next?

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.


Did I say he's a "lamb" or a "lamp" at home?
Did I say he's a "lamb" or a "lamp" at home?

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!!!

Let it all hang out... AFTER the HP, not at it

Your HP Confession

Have you ever made a fool of yourself at a company party?

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    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Oh Paradigmsearch. You really know how to press my buttons, don't you? Thanks. I hadn't reread this hub in ages. Those memories STILL make me cringe! Hope I can save someone this season, tho!

      Thanks for visiting and the comment. MM

    • paradigmsearch profile image

      Person of Interest 

      8 years ago from USA

      I humbly believe this hub to be excellent, useful, funny, awesome, beautiful info!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Congratulations animal-backpacks! I should put an asterisk on #4. As you rightly point out, mutual attraction is a whole nuther matter. And office romances -- whether or not they are discouraged or outright "banned" by the employer -- are never going to go away. Human nature!

      Glad you and your girlfriend are still together! MM

    • animal-backpacks profile image


      8 years ago from Brighton

      Another great hub Mighty Mum although I have to take issue with point 4. I finally plucked up the courage to speak to my girlfriend at the Christmas party and ever since then we've never looked back. In fact as I write this she's just walked into the room and is giggling about the memory now a full 2 and a half years down the road.

      Good things can come of it but I guess you have to base it on whether you think there is a genuine mutual attraction or if you're going to make a fool of yourself and make things uncomfortable for future. Luckily for us it worked out for the best!

    • geekchick profile image


      8 years ago

      I'm the person at the party who sits there eating my food and keeping a countdown until the party ends. =P

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello dear CR. So nice of you to visit!! You are not missing much in the large party dept. Pomp and circumstance does not mix well with an open bar. That's been my experience. I can look back and laugh now, of course. Hey -- maybe we should start planning our giant Hub Pages Holiday Extravaganza!!!

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      9 years ago from St. Louis

      I've never been to a large corporate HP party--only small little office ones that were always funny--and if I had the opportunity, I doubt I would go.

      Told with your usual wit and insight!

    • sheryld30 profile image


      9 years ago from California

      Good hub. Found it to be quite humorous :P

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Work is like a real life soap opera and the end-of-year party is like the cliffhanger ending for the season!

      Thanks for visiting and thanks for the compliments on my writing! MM

    • mrxsmoker profile image


      9 years ago from Las Vegas

      Very funny and sooo true. It's like a real-life soap opera. As I said before, you're really a gifted writer.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      christianbooks -- oh no! If everyone reads this the party won't be fun at all. Somebody's gotta make a fool of themself. I just don't want to be that person:-). Thanks for visiting.

      MHilbert. You look like someone who would be ladylike as you stomp your stilletto heel on someone's back to get to the buffet table. Ha ha!

    • MHilbert profile image


      9 years ago

      Office Christmas parties...haha. They are always so much fun. Unfortunately I break your "Don't be a pig" rule. Everyone needs to get out of my way.

    • christianbooks profile image


      9 years ago

      Wow great hub. I think people relly need to read this before going to their office party.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hey Spryte! Why is it that even describing your "company stick in the mud" experiences you manage to make them sound fun? I'd give you a spouse of the century award! But flashing on purpose? Your boss's wife? Oh my. Holiday parties in AZ are pretty wild. I was gonna say it's the heat but could be the peyote (?). LOL!

    • spryte profile image


      9 years ago from Arizona, USA

      MM: LOL! Wonderfully entertaining! I've been to those kinds of office well as the ones where I was the only sober person in attendance and therefore could recall with stunning clarity body parts that I wish I had not seen in such graphic detail. I remember once this very topless date came jiggling over to request a flick of my husband's bic. I ended up awarding him gobs of brownie points for keeping his eyes averted during the entire procedure. :) I made it up to him the following year by granting permission for several women to flash my husband while he was singing karaoke. How could I say no when one of them was the boss' wife?

      So in my case, I had a reverse problem. I was forever branded "company stick in the mud" or "corporate designated driver." :)

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      LOL Immartin. Sounds like we attended some of the same parties. Wish someone had written this in about 1985 for me!

      Hendrika - Thanks! I hope it saves someone from making a blithering idiot of themselves!

    • Hendrika profile image


      9 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Very good advice here!

    • lmmartin profile image


      9 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Extremely good advice -- ten years too late to do me any good. Did I tell about the office party when I ... Oh yeah, I already voted not telling. Sorry.

      Great read -- thanks.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Pam -- Thanks for visiting. WHen you said "big butt" I was expecting something very different. I always made sure I sat with the "fun people" at the holiday party. I would have deffbeen nervous with the boss at the table also. Don't do well with authority figures!

      Pamela99,staciesgifts, thanks for your support!

      ehern --- The scenario you describe is so common. I think the liability is too much for companies anymore.

      On=site, during the day, non-alcoholic parties are much safer!

      wsp2469-- I got the video into the hub. Yeah!

      As to spilling all my guts, I'm thinking a holiday parties horror stories thread on the Forum would be a better place for that:-) Thx for workingon your hub, tho! MM

    • ehern33 profile image


      9 years ago

      Excellent hub! You are so right-on. One company I worked for long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, has formal Christmas parties until one year it was disatrous. From that day forward they held it during working hours for about 1 hr and that was the end of it. Most companies I worked for aftwerwards were alike. To many bad experiences so they limit their expenses and our embarrassment.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Love this Hub.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Great hub!

    • wsp2469 profile image


      9 years ago from Alta Loma, Ca

      NO, no, you have to redo this and put in ALL the embarrassing stuff! That is what I am doing with that hub you requested. (In fact, rewrote the opening and it mentions my face in a particularly embarrassing place . . . )

      Re: The Ren & Stimpy video maybe some geek in the forum could help you.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This is so good. I hate company Christmas parties. Been to a few, but always managed to avoid the pitfalls you list here. The last one I went to, (probably my last ever at this point), was when I worked at the insurance corporation, right after Bill and I met. We went together, had a great meal, and I won $100 in a drawing. But---and here's where my BIG BUTT comes in---But the call center director sat right next to me, dateless, and I was treated to the spectacle of most of the rest of the table trying to kiss her butt, which was very unappetizing.

      I felt so nervous with her there but there was no escape. I couldn't really move without harming myself at work, so that was kind of a drag. But the $100 made up for it.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi dohn. I love that quote - the best of times and the worst of times. That sums up my experience!

      wsp2469 -- just so you know, I have spent HOURS trying to add that Ren and Stimpy video to my hub on Christmas sweaters (and giving you credit). Not sure why, but it's not working.

      Anyway, I haven't been to a "real" company holiday party since 2001. Can't say I miss them at all. I got my fill while I was young and stupid! Needless to say, I left out some key points that are particularly painful to remember. Ouch!

    • wsp2469 profile image


      9 years ago from Alta Loma, Ca

      Hey, I wish I was still working full-time so I could GO to a company Christmas party! The last company I worked for was too cheap or too large to have a party so we would take the hours budgeted for a monthly safety meeting and have a party on that time after everyone signed the safety paperwork. Unfortunately, since we were getting paid we couldn't drink on the clock. I am well aware of the things you write about here though . . .

    • dohn121 profile image


      9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I almost forgot what a HP is like until you brought it up, MM. Thanks for the memories: "It was the best of times and the worst of times..." I remember it well, that is the problem/good thing. I love the fact that at these parties, you find just how much of a jerk the jerks in the company really are!


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