Office Holiday Party Etiquette: How to Be Merry and Not Drink Too Much Mead

For a lot of us, office holiday parties feel like a trap: have too much fun and you’re Carol in Accounting’s favorite topic for all of January… be perceived as having not enough fun and you’re a Grinch.

So how to strike the perfect balance at this year’s holiday party? We’ve got some tips.

office holiday party

How to Survive the Office Holiday Party (…and Leave Smelling of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice)

1. RSVP in a timely manner.

We know that RSVPs have gone by the wayside in recent years, with a “Yes” on Facebook events really meaning you’ve expressed interest and might attend so long as the wind isn’t blowing from the East, but FOR THE LOVE OF EMILY POST make sure you RSVP. As Mrs. Post’s institute attests, figuring out how many people will attend is the most difficult task party organizers face. If you don’t have an airtight excuse, you should absolutely be going to your office holiday party, so the reply is pretty simple. Just say yes!

2. “Talk Less. Smile More.”

In the immortal words of Aaron Burr, Sir, “Talk less / Smile more.” Small talk has a universally bad rap, but it doesn’t have to be the death knell for your enjoyment of the party. Try coming prepared with tried and true topics like “what’s your favorite kind of cheese?” I always like to prepare a few short anecdotes that branch into a larger topic in order to get and keep the conversational balls rolling in anyone’s direction but mine. People love to talk about themselves, so lead the conversation towards their pets or their kids or wasn’t Jim talking about getting a new snowblower (this one has the added advantage of also being about the weather, a favorite small talk topic).

3. Prepare to Drink (or, Prepare to Appear to Drink)

Fact: if a drink is in my hand, I will drink it. Fast. So, I try to be a little sneaky about my drinks at office parties. There is of course, the alternating rule – one drink on, one drink off – but how many of us have had a coworker comment that water is no fun? One of my favorite keeping-up-appearances drinks is a club soda with lime in a cocktail glass – the trick is getting the bartender on your side so they will still give you the fancy glass, even without the alcohol.

4. Don’t Abandon Your Date

This is pretty basic, but even if your date is the best date in the world and can totally handle him or herself and aren’t you so lucky to be with someone so independent, blah blah blah – DO NOT ABANDON YOUR DATE! Even if they tell you it’s fine – DO NOT ABANDON YOUR DATE! Even if you really want to go gossip with Cheryl from Sales about that darn Carol from Accounting – DO NOT ABANDON YOUR DATE! Even if you have to go use the restroom – ok, you can use the restroom. But seriously, be a good date. It’s not a good look on anyone if your date is following you around the party like a lost puppy, so make sure he or she doesn’t have to – DO NOT ABANDON YOUR DATE!

5. Put Your Game Face On

Holiday parties often come with gift exchanges, most of which are full of mediocre loot that no one really wants. Whether your office does a Secret Santa, a White Elephant, or some other gift exchange, put your game face on and participate in the spirit of giving. You don’t have to go all-out in the getting and wrapping of gifts – most gift exchanges have a $5-$20 limit, anyway. But I recommend thinking about putting a nice add-on item to your pre-holidays Amazon order or dropping into the bargain area at Target to get something a little nicer than the norm. When it comes time to exchange and open gifts, advice number two holds true… “talk less, smile more!”

6. Say “Thank You” and Know When to Leave

Make a point during the evening to thank the host and organizer. I like to do this between 1 and 2/3 of the way through the evening to make sure I get a chance to speak with them before the rush to leave. This way, I’ve said my thanks and when it’s time I can get going and execute a perfect Irish Goodbye without anyone feeling as if I left the party prematurely.

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