Skip to main content

What You Need to Know Before You Attend Your Office Holiday Party

What You Need to Know Before You Attend Your Office Holiday Party

The holiday office party can be a confusing experience. You are surrounded by those you normally work with on a professional level, but in a new setting with different expectations. Here are tips to navigate this festive but slightly stressful setting.

Use it as an informal networking experience

Yes, the holiday party is meant to be a release from work obligations and a way to socialize with your colleagues. So talking about work and projects is frowned upon. But you can use the experience to get to know colleagues you don’t know as well. "In a social setting like a holiday party, it can feel more permissible to talk about subjects you'd normally save for behind closed doors," said management consulting firm Right Management executive vice president Bram Lowsky. "Instead, save those types of conversations for another time and use the easy-going atmosphere to make new connections and relate to others on a personal level."

Show your best self

Some holiday parties are eliminating alcohol altogether. For those that include beer, wine or booze, make a plan to limit yourself to two drinks total. In addition, eat and drink ahead of time so the alcohol doesn’t hit an empty stomach. Hydrate with water between drinks and before you leave. It’s OK to loosen up, but show your best self.

Stay professional

The paradox of the office party is the expectation to be professional, but not too professional; friendly but not too friendly. It suddenly creates a whole new set of norms that no one is used to navigating. When in doubt, err on the side of being more professional. If you find it too difficult to do both, it’s better to not attend the party.

Plan your exit

Finally, plan ahead for how you want to make a final impression. Make a mental list of people to thank and say goodbye before you leave. Set a general time you want to exit, which can be sometime in the middle so you’re not the first or last to leave.

If you find the holiday party stressful, know that you’re not alone. Many people find the experience difficult, if not fraught. But you can make the most of it. If you see someone alone or looking out of place, go and help make their experience better. In doing so, you’ll create a better environment for yourself and everyone involved. Happy holidays.