How to make the right impression at the office Christmas party

Making a fool of yourself at the office Christmas party is something to be avoided at all costs.

Making a fool of yourself at the office Christmas party is something to be avoided at all costs.

After all, you’ll be obliged to work with those very same co-workers the following week and if they have a remarkably lowered opinion of you since the party, it’ll feel more than awkward...

* While the Christmas party can create worries for both employer and employee, it is an event where you can still behave professionally and have fun, and provides a great opportunity to socialise with co-workers and bosses within your company whom you normally don’t have a chance to mingle with. It all comes down to the simple mantra “behave right and you’ll have a great night”. And here are some straightforward suggestions to keep this part of your work’s social calendar all sorted.

* Prepare yourself mentally and show up.

* Rather than dreading the occasion, the right mindset can provide much-needed balance. Regardless of how you feel about the party or the office, office parties are a crucial part of the office dynamic. Think of it like a Sunday afternoon visit to your grandparents – even if you don’t feel like it, you know that you probably should go.

Accept that this is part of what is expected and expect to be able to talk to the people you do get along with, at the very least. It’s a good opportunity to meet your superiors in a casual environment and a chance for networking with new people. Both are great things for career escalation. It’s also a good opportunity get the office wall flower into a good conversation. You might be surprised and find a terrific person there.

* Consider leaving early in advance. When you’re deciding whether or not to agree to going to the party, it can help to reassure yourself that you can come up with a valid early exit strategy, such as having to attend a kid’s Christmas concert, or your spouse’s business Christmas party, etc. At least this way, you can save face by turning up for part of the event but leaving before things become awkward or strange.

* Arrange for a friend to call you at a set time. Go out of earshot to take the call, then return and say you must leave on an urgent matter. Some good excuses are your friend’s car broke down on the highway or your roommate is locked out of the apartment.

Decide what to wear.

* Find out what everyone else is wearing before the party and match the tone with your outfit: If it’s casual dress and you turn up smart, that’ll immediately put you on the back foot and make the rest of the evening very uncomfortable and also opens you up as an easy target for derision. The same applies the other way round.

* If you are a woman, find a compromise between ‘I’m attractive and sexy’ and ‘Take me seriously, I’m a professional’. Revealing clothing, while fun, is not appropriate around your superiors. Think beyond the event to the image you’d like your co-workers to retain of you in months to come!

* If everyone is heading straight to the party from work, you don’t have to worry as there won’t be time to change, so clearly work clothes are accepted.

* Arrive on time. This is an office party, not a discotheque. So turning up ‘fashionably late’ is not an option and could have you missing out on all the fun. Arriving on time gives you the opportunity to say hello to everyone, and still get out early without seeming rude.

* Be sure to acknowledge all your co-workers, and especially your superiors and their associates as this will put you in good stead; the Christmas party is an excellent opportunity to cement relationships and to get known in a good way. Talk to your co-workers and bosses about work issues in a positive and complimentary light, focusing on achievements for the year and fun things you remember. And don’t be frightened to talk to your co-workers and management about things outside of work such as the cinema, football, hobbies, family, or dogs. And practice listening; this is as important as the small talk.

* Even if there’s someone you really don’t like, like Steve from accounting, it’s best to have a quick chat with them, and remember to use that winning smile.

* While the occasion may feel really informal, take care to still defer to superiors; this isn’t the time to be speaking your mind informally to management (unless doing so is the norm in your workplace).

* Drink responsibly. Don’t forget where you are – technically, still at work because you’re with the work crowd, so treat the party as an extension to your work day. Keep in mind that everything observed has the potential to be turned into a judgment on your professionalism and work suitability. If there is one thing that can besmirch a reputation, it’s getting out of control on the liquor at the work Christmas party. No matter how much management has insisted that everyone let down their hair, just don’t. Wait until after the party if getting blind drunk is your plan; grab the few trusted co-workers and head off somewhere else.

At the party

* Eat first before drinking. Drinking on an empty stomach is asking for trouble. Space all drinks with water and more food, and lots of conversation.

* Join in the drinking so you don’t look like a stiff, but judge the tone carefully. If it’s a kicking party led from the top, and you’re having a good time, you can let your hair down a little more than usual, but do be aware of your limits and keep in mind that someone is always watching with an eye to judge in the workplace context.

* Under no circumstances allow yourself to get hammered. The more drinks you have, the more likely you are to do something that you’ll regret. Avoid using alcohol as the excuse to let out a year’s worth of pent-up resentment and frustration about your boss, co-workers, or the workplace in general. Telling them what you really think of them will be remembered forever more as the truth from your perspective, and this can only harm your future prospects in the company.

* Be tactful and careful about declaring your undying romantic intentions.

* Be discreet. Your co-workers will gossip as soon as they see anything happen.

* On the other hand, you may find yourself being hit on - even by your boss. If this is not to your liking, be tactful. You don’t want to damage relationships with your co-workers or boss, so let them down gently.

* Don’t lead anyone on because you’re drunk and you feel like it. This will only create problems on Monday, especially if they like you more than you like them.

Bear in mind the potential for claims of sexual harassment. Do not touch people in ways that can be misinterpreted, or say things that are considered demeaning or sexually provocative. Use your common sense.

* If you’re after a promotion, this is a prime opportunity. Corner your boss and raise ideas you’ve had about increasing productivity and encouraging new clients. But remember he’s your boss, keep it casual and humble.

* Some people take snacks along in case the food is not to their liking. That way, you can still eat something to fill your stomach and help you to handle the alcohol.

* A good workplace or hosting management will ensure food comes before the alcohol, even going so far as to check that everyone has had a chance to eat something.

* Keep adding sparkling water to wine and you can make the drinks go a lot further and last longer without getting drunk.

* If you don’t like or cannot drink alcohol, just say so. There is no need to suffer by forcing yourself to pretend; there are plenty of valid reasons for refusing alcohol.