Office Holiday Party Etiquette 101

It's not uncommon to embrace a "work hard, play hard" mentality this time of year, especially if your employer is throwing an office holiday party.

It's a great time to unwind, celebrate recent successes and have some fun with your coworkers. And although it's OK to "let a little loose" during an office holiday party, it's not the time to throw your inhibitions to the wind. But apparently, not all employees got the memo.

Here are some real-life examples of outrageous office party behavior (I wish I could say I was making these up):

  • "There was a holiday party where two coworkers decided it was the perfect time to hash out their differences with an all-out fist fight."
  • "My coworkers were competing on the dance floor to see who could do the best moves. It turned into a fight and they both were let go for inappropriate behavior."
  • "A person rode naked on a Ferris wheel."
  • "We caught an employee going through everyone's desk while we were partying."

Likely a result of too many cocktails, these stories may be on the extreme side. However, it's important to remember that the office holiday party is not the time to overindulge. You want to keep your manners in check and remember these etiquette rules:

Get the 411. Find out if you need to RSVP, whether guests (like a significant other) are allowed and what the dress code is. When it comes to attire, blending in is much better than standing out.

Work the room. Sure, your closest pals are fun to hang out with, but try to branch out beyond your regular lunch clique. Use the event as an opportunity to build rapport with people in different departments and the higher-ups. But avoid extended conversations, particularly when talking with managers who may have many people they want to chat with during the event.

Limit the libations. Learn from the above cautionary tales and play it safe by keeping cocktails to a minimum. Whether your office holiday party is a formal sit-down dinner or laid-back shindig in a bowling alley, it's still a work function and you should behave in a professional manner.

Don't be all business. Parties are supposed to be fun and relaxing, so squash the shoptalk. Discussing typography trends is one thing, but tracking down colleagues to discuss a deliverable is another. Stick to non-work-related topics like movies, sports, travel or wacky viral videos.

Get away from the Grinches. Quickly excuse yourself if a party pooper or rumormonger tries to draw you into their web of negativity. It does you no good to be in a conversation about the art director's outfit or the poor selection of hors d'oeuvres. Beyond avoiding guilt by association, it's far more pleasant to mingle with those who are trying to have a good time.

At best, inappropriate behavior at the office holiday party may cause people to question your professionalism. At worst, it may end up costing you your job. Need more incentive to keep yourself in check? Don't forget that the Internet exists! The last thing you want is your bar-top-dancing moment to end up on YouTube.

Have an office holiday party horror story to share? Let us know in the comments below.