They say you never forget your first, and I will always remember mine. My first big, official company Christmas party that is. It was unforgettable for some really good reasons, and for some not so good shall we say. So with the holiday party season in full swing, after some reminiscing, I'll follow with some good reminders on how NOT to be THAT person at your next holiday party.
My holiday party inauguration came in 1989. I was working my first job in television, and the company owned TV and radio stations in multiple markets, as well as a 24-hour nationwide news channel and a satellite news gathering operation. So there were a lot of people at the party, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300.
It was held in the ballroom of a large downtown hotel, and even spilled (more on that later) out in to the pool area and other parts of the hotel. The dress was formal, tuxes even for some of the long-time employees, and featured an open bar from 6:00 pm - midnight (disaster - and lawsuit - waiting to happen today), roving appetizers, a magician, a comedian, a sit-down, multi-course dinner, dessert bar, live band, DJ and a photo kiosk.
Parties like those are a thing of the past, save maybe for the one-percenters on Wall Street, but it was a thing to behold. Particularly the part where the satellite truck operator, seeing the owner of the company walking his way, deciding to approach him, hand outstretched, and tripping on a piece of crumpled carpeting, basically knocking the old man down as he fell.
Then there was the news producer who had an after party in a rented poolside cabana, and publicly lost her dinner and drinks all over the pool deck. Embarrassing for sure. And potentially career derailing.
I will also never forget the advice of the seasoned general manager who kind of took me under his wing and gave me lots of good personal - and professional - advice over the course of the decade or so I worked for him.
They may call it the 'Office Christmas PARTY’, but keep in mind, it’s like no other party you’ll go to all year.
He said, "They may call it the 'Office Christmas PARTY’, but keep in mind, it’s like no other party you’ll go to all year. Think about it, not only are your colleagues and co-workers there, but so are your bosses, and their bosses, and the people who sign your checks and so on. The way you look, act and dress will all be on very public display, so be sure you are making the kind of impression that you won't have any regrets about come Monday morning. Certain visual images are hard to get out of your mind if you know what I mean."
Solid, sound advice, and yes, I did know what he meant. And today, if you end up twerking at your holiday office party, it won't be just a visual image you have to worry about. No, your exploits on the dance floor will likely end up on someone's cell phone, which will undoubtedly find its way to Facebook, and now Houston, you do have a problem.
Here are a few tips to avoid all that.
Owing to the advice my GM gave me, while office parties are supposed to be fun, think of them also as an extension of the work place. Impressions made on these occasions are long remembered.
While office parties are supposed to be fun, think of them also as an extension of the work place.
We all know alcohol reduces our inhibitions, right? So don't drink too much! I love what an advice columnist wrote one time..."Remember, the next time you see your colleagues, you’ll all be stone cold sober."
Do dress appropriately. Generally, if you wouldn’t ever consider wearing it to the office, maybe it's time to rethink wearing it to the office party.
Think carefully about the messages you post on social media sites about the party. Bear in mind when you are sharing you are not only representing yourself, but also your company. Don't be embarrassed for yourself, or your co-workers, with an ill-advised post you'll all regret the morning after.
Remember what they say about office romances? What do they say anyway? This is not the time to flirt or start a fling.
This one won't get you in trouble, it will just bore the people you are with. Do not talk shop. I can't tell you how many times I have stood around at office parties and heard stories about what happened at work the previous week/month/year. Save it for another time. There are lots of them.
Do use the time at the holiday party, however, to get to know your co-workers better. Maybe there is a person you pass in the hallway all the time, or know well enough to say hi, but don't really know anything else about them. Maybe not even their name. Introduce yourself, get to now them a bit better. Think of it in part as a networking event, but with your colleagues.
52% of employed professionals say they have seen someone under the influence of alcohol at a company-sponsored event.
I came across this post in Forbes that contained a survey about holiday party office behavior. Here are a few of the findings:
- 52% of employed professionals say they have seen someone under the influence of alcohol at a company-sponsored event whose behavior crossed the line from embarrassing to inappropriate to downright dangerous.
30% have seen someone flirt with a co-worker or supervisor.
- 28% witnessed a fellow party-goer drive drunk.
- 26% indicated a colleague or supervisor shared inappropriate details about themselves or a co-worker.
19% witnessed someone arguing or becoming aggressive with a colleague or supervisor.
- 9% claimed co-workers or supervisors engaged in sexual activity while under the influence of alcohol.
So do attend your office party, if you have one. Have fun, dress appropriately, mingle, remember your manners and do everything in moderation. That should help you avoid becoming a statistic in the next Forbes survey or a sheepish interviewee, as in the video below: