Make the Best of Your Office Holiday Parties

It’s the question that’s on every employee’s mind this week: do I have to attend my company’s holiday party?  The answer is yes.  For the sake of your career, you should make an appearance and stay an appropriate length of time – arriving within an hour of the start of the event and leaving within an hour of its conclusion. And because your company is going to spend your raise on a dancing Christmas tree whether you enjoy it or not, you might as well make the best of the situation.

Company Party Best Practices

Dress appropriately for the occasion.  If you’re allowed to bring a date, treat someone you love to a catered meal.  Do not bring someone you barely know – this isn’t the time or the place.  If you’re going solo, use the opportunity to get some face time with higher-ups you wouldn’t get to meet otherwise.

Attending the company holiday party is the same as being on the clock, so you should avoid discussions of gossip, sex, drugs, religion, or politics.  You never know who you might offend.  Know your tolerance and stick to one or two drinks, sipped super slowly.  The worst possible thing you can do is be spotted by a senior executive dancing drunkenly on the bar.

Department Party Best Practices

Your department might also have its own party.  Spare yourself stress by finding out in advance about the company policy on giving gifts.  Hopefully, your department favors the grab bag—a convention in which each person in the group puts one small wrapped gift in the pool, and then leaves with someone else’s even smaller wrapped gift. If you’re supposed to shop for your entire group, however, keep your gifts thoughtful albeit slightly impersonal.  You’re not required to give your boss anything, but it is a nice gesture. You should always buy the group admin something as a token of your appreciation for all of her help during the year.

Departmental holiday parties often have a potluck component as well.  Don’t panic while your coworkers are competing to see who can cook the best holiday fare. Go to the grocery store and buy a $2 package of chocolate chip cookie mix, spend 10 minutes baking the stuff, and pass the goodies off as homemade at the party. Your colleagues will say your cookies are the best they’ve ever tasted.

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