Career Advice: Don’t make these 5 office holiday party mistakes

Six colleagues drinking champagne at an office holiday party

Bust out your party shoes and brush up on your office banter, because it’s holiday office party season. From indulging in the giant seafood tower to trying to get a little more face time with the boss, everyone has their own idea about how to make the company-paid fest a win.

Whether your firm is toasting the season with a full-blown bash or a more modest luncheon, you can always make the most of office festivities and maybe even give your work life a boost. Nearly half of workers surveyed in 2017 by LinkedIin and Wakefield Research said that holiday networking helped their career, including learning about new opportunities at work and connecting with executives they wouldn’t have met otherwise.

On the flip side, missing out could be a big mistake. That’s because failing to attend can send the message that you’re not engaged with the company or appreciative of their efforts. And while it might seem like a drag, showing up could be more enjoyable than you realize, as you may find yourself chatting with someone new or finding out about a company initiative for the first time.

What are other mistakes to watch out for as office party season takes hold? Here are five errors to avoid, which will help you not only survive the holiday fete, but also potentially inject some positive energy into your career.

1. Grinching out

Dreading the annual get together? Don’t be a party pooper.

“Make sure to come with a positive attitude and don’t hide away in the corner,” Ben Reuveni, CEO and co-founder of Workey said in an email. “Be prepared to celebrate the time of year as well as company and co-workers’ successes. Nothing leaves a more lasting impression than taking the time to mention and celebrate the achievements of others. This approach to the Christmas party will set a great tone for the year ahead.”

Even if you are feeling a little spicy this season, don’t go to the dark place by spreading or listening to gossip during the party.

“Avoid the office gossips like the plague,” Reuveni added. The holiday party “is a time when lips are certainly looser, and you don’t want to be remembered as the one fanning the flames of any office politics. Politely find an exit from any gossiping, and keep yourself at arm’s length from any negativity at the party.”

2. Ignoring the dress code

Take cues from your party invitation itself: If it’s ugly Christmas sweater time, go for it, by all means. But for all other settings, consider your office dress code when selecting your attire, as ABC News suggests. While standards may vary widely, depending on your workplace, it’s never a bad idea to dress a bit spiffier than you would otherwise on a typical Friday. When in doubt, check with colleagues — or HR.

Stumped on what to wear? You could try one of the seven stylish looks recommended by CNBC or use the party setting as your guide.

If the gathering is held during regular office hours, you may want to accentuate your office attire with a different pair of shoes or a slightly dressier outfit, Top Resume suggested. For an evening event, feel free to go glam. Overall advice: keep it classy and work-appropriate.

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3. Staying in your social comfort zone

Use holiday party time to expand your group of work friends. “Make a conscious effort to socialize and talk with people outside of your team,” Reuveni said. “Offices can easily become a collection of cliques, with different teams sticking to themselves. Take this opportunity to build new relationships and expand your horizons within the firm, demonstrating how your personality helps build office morale and creates a positive environment.”

Feeling a little awkward about approaching a new person at work? Consider meeting new folks while in a group and keep the conversation to more social topics than talking shop, Fast Company advised. Some comfortable icebreakers include talking about the food, travel plans for the holidays and what people are looking forward to most in 2018.

Just remember to stay professional. If you’re going to give a compliment, it’s best to focus on actions, say by thanking a coworker for how her new initiative made your job easier. Avoid talking about appearances or weight, lest you make someone uncomfortable or send the wrong message.

4. Having one too many

Enjoying drinks with friends is one thing, but getting tanked at the office party could have a seriously negative effect on your career. “Remember that this isn’t the last bar you’ll ever see, and therefore, you don’t have to treat it like that,” Jenni Maier, editor-in-chief at The Muse said in an email. “Know your limits — whether that’s one drink or three — and hold yourself to them.”

You can always go to another bar after the event and drink more on your own time. What you really don’t want is to walk into the office the next day and get texts from your co-workers asking how you’re feeling or recounting something embarrassing you did — that you can’t remember.

Beyond boozing, there are other actions that could get you into hot water. This includes arguing about politics or religion, inviting a guest who behaves inappropriately, behaving rudely by the food table and/or devouring the entire buffet — or using the copy machine to make 1,000 copies of your butt. Don’t do that.

SNL /Giphy

5. Forgetting about your new work friends

Approach the holiday office party as you would any other career-boosting event and reach out to any friendly new connections the next day.

“Follow up within 24 hours saying you enjoyed meeting and chatting, and that [you] would like to grab coffee after the holidays,” author Judy Robinett told Fast Company. This could mean just sending an email to people you met, and confirming any plans you made during your conversation.

It wouldn’t hurt to message the party organizers and thank them for throwing the shindig, too. After all, you never can be too classy, especially when your work reputation is on the line.

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