The office Christmas party is an annual tradition that many people look forward to. However, waking up the next day to realise you may have put your livelihood in jeopardy is not a great start to the festive season.
From drinking too much or making inappropriate comments to a work colleague, it’s all too easy to turn a fun night out into career suicide.
Sue Andrews, HR expert has been looking at the best ways to enjoy your office Christmas party without putting your job at risk.
“Office parties fall between a casual and professional place that can be hard to navigate. Everyone wants to enjoy a party, so if you follow a few simple guidelines, you can do this without running into problems and regrets.”
The number one rule – don’t get drunk
Pace yourself! The office Christmas party is still a professional environment, so drinking too much and losing your inhibitions is never a good idea. Saying or doing something that you might later regret can have a lasting negative impact on your professional reputation, and you don’t want to come to your boss’s attention for the wrong reasons.
Having one too many could cause you to share too much personal information that you later regret, or even repeating something confidential that could really land you in professional trouble.
Disagreements that have simmered during the year can bubble over when those involved have had a few too many drinks and you may find that you react out of character when your inhibitions are lowered. It’s not unknown for arguments to erupt or even become physical, which could land you in hot water with not only your employer but possible the police too.
Telling an inappropriate joke is also a good way to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. When you’ve had too much to drink you may forget your audience and end up embarrassing yourself, particularly if you tell it to your boss.
If you supervise other staff you may also want to keep a clear head as it’s a bit difficult to retain your team’s respect if they have seen you staggering around at the party the night before!
Don’t flirt with colleagues
Even if your feelings are reciprocated, this isn’t the time to share them as it’s likely to lead to embarrassment for you both. If the other person doesn’t feel the same way, they could find the situation quite stressful and this could lead to serious consequences. You could even find yourself facing a claim of harassment and a trip to the HR department the next day.
Follow the dress code
It is really important to take account of the location of the party and the type of culture at your company. If it is a formal sit-down meal, turning up in a clubbing outfit will look really inappropriate. If there is no dress code issued, then speak to colleagues and get an idea of the type of outfits that others are wearing. Whilst it is important to be yourself, you also don’t want to look out of place or be remembered for the wrong reasons.
Don’t talk shop
Don’t be the work bore that everyone wants to avoid. Get to know colleagues better on a human level by talking to them about their interests or holiday plans, but definitely avoid office gossip. It’s never a good idea to be found gossiping about colleagues, as it’s sure to backfire on you plus you never know who is listening.
Mix with others outside of your immediate work team
Treat the party as a good opportunity to widen your network and strengthen working relationships with colleagues by getting to know them better as individuals. You may find that you make some useful connections with people that you might otherwise not have had the opportunity to meet and get to know a little better.
Be careful about uploading images to social media
Some companies ban the use of social media at work events in order to protect staff from embarrassing incidents. Whilst it may seem fun to film your drunken colleague on the dancefloor, you could find yourself in trouble if it causes embarrassment for the individual or bad publicity for the company. You could even face allegations of bullying by a colleague, who wasn’t pleased to wake up the next day to see their antics on social media.
Spending all evening on your phone will be seen as bad manners anyway, so put your phone away for the evening and enjoy being present.
Don’t leave early
Unless you have a genuine reason, such as the babysitter only being available until 9.30, it’s polite to stay for the majority of the evening. Just putting in a short guest appearance will be noticed, and you risk looking ungrateful or that you think you have better things to do. Either way it won’t look good to your boss.
Not showing up
If you have said you’ll attend then its bad manners to bail on the night. Not going will make you appear like you’re not a team player and don’t appreciate that the company has put the effort and money into arranging an event. Even if you don’t think they’ll notice, Managers will usually notice who didn’t attend.
Say thank you at the end of the night
Just a simple thank you at the end of the night or the next day to the organiser, will be greatly appreciated. It takes time and effort, not to say money to put on a Christmas party so it’s worth a quick acknowledgement to your boss to show that you recognise this and, if you are part of a large team, it’s a good opportunity for you to remind them who you are.
If you stick to these easy tips you can enjoy the party without any fear that you will wake up the next day without a job!