From cocktails and cream puffs to gifts and gravy—’tis the season for indulgence! Many of us allow ourselves a little extra this time of year, and hey, why not? The holidays are a time to eat, drink, and be merry.
But, there’s one festive occasion that should be approached with a little more caution than the rest of the events on your social calendar: the office holiday party. While sipping egg nog with your fellow employees can be a great time, it can also make this annual event a landmine masked in merriment.
Here’s how to mingle and jingle, while avoiding potential pitfalls:
Do: Let Your Hair Down
Your company goes out of its way to plan and pay for a festive holiday party—and that’s because they want you to enjoy it! It’s also an opportunity to get to know your colleagues better and show a somewhat less serious side of yourself.
So relax, enjoy, and have fun developing out-of-the-office relationships with your co-workers. You may find out that you have more in common than just your cubicle wall.
Don’t: Let Your Guard Down
Of course, this isn’t a college reunion or your best friend’s holiday cocktail party, so don’t overdo it—you’ll have plenty of other opportunities to let loose this season.
If you’re invited to join your boss or co-workers at the bar, go ahead and order a cocktail, but think twice before going shot for shot with Joe from Marketing. It may be fun to be the life of the party that night—but come the next morning, you’d probably rather be considered a professional.
Do: Show Up With More Than Just Bells On
When you’re picking out your holiday party outfit, have fun. Don’t be afraid to wear a little more makeup than usual, style your hair, and give people a glimpse of who you are outside the office.
But skip the strapless dress and the miniskirt. I know you look cute in them—but you’re a whole lot better off getting your supervisor’s attention with your creative prowess than with your cleavage.
Don’t: Risk a Wardrobe Malfunction
Also carefully consider possible wardrobe slip-ups. Is that sheathy white dress see-through under bright lights? Does your bra tend to creep up your back when you hit the dance floor?
When in doubt, go with something you know will keep you covered. There will be photos—and they will appear on your office intranet or someone’s Facebook wall.
Do: Bring Someone (Special)
The office holiday party is a great place for those you spend 40 hours a week with to get a sense of the real you. So, if you have a significant other, bring them, and don’t be shy about making introductions. But don’t find someone to bring—your best friend, that woman you went out with a few times last month—just because you don’t want to go alone. It defeats the whole purpose of the party, which is to get to know your colleagues better.
This is also not the time for a first date or a set-up (even if it’s by one of your co-workers). Not knowing your date well puts you at risk of guilt by association—you don’t want them to be the one swinging from the chandelier (or maybe you do, but keep that at a different party!).
Don’t: Take Someone (Not-So-Special) Home
This should go without saying, but just in case: Do not, under any circumstance, drink too much, flirt with a colleague, and take them home with you. If you have a crush on someone at work, look great, flirt a little, dance the night away, and leave it at that. You’re more likely to score a second date (and keep your reputation, professional and otherwise, intact) by asking them to hail you a cab and then handing them your number on a matchbook.
The office holiday party is a time to celebrate, connect with your colleagues, and showcase a little more of your personality. But it’s not a time to slip up. So keep it classy—you’re going to see everyone again on Monday, and you do want to be invited next year, right?