‘Tis True: Office Holiday Parties Are Back, Debauchery Still Out

After years of pinching pennies, cutting holiday festivities out of office budgets due to a not-so-Santa-friendly economy, the infamous office parties are making a comeback this season.  And surprisingly (at least to me anyway because I find them to be très awkward), most people are thrilled.

But, they’re not the traditional parties you became accustomed too before the economic downturn with open bar and a buffet topped with caviar.

According to the annual Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., holiday party survey, close to 83 % of 100 human resources managers said their companies will host an event this year, but aren’t planning extravagant events.

As NBCnews.com reports:

“They’re opting for more modest or original activities — a potluck lunch, after-hours party at the office, or volunteering at a food bank followed by dinner at a local restaurant. ‘There appears to be a move from the more traditional night out, with dinner and a dance band,’ says Robert Hosking, executive director at Robert Half International’s OfficeTeam division, which conducts an annual office party survey. “I think companies are becoming more creative with this, and allowing employees to come back with recommendations.’”

While things seem to be getting back to normal for the most part, one thing hasn’t changed one bit, good economy or not. In the NBCnews.com article, tips from office etiquette experts, including Barbara Pachter, show the rules are still the same when enjoying the holiday party the right way:

  • Don’t talk shop. Conversations about work are OK, in moderation. Parties are a chance to get to know co-workers on a different level.  “You can talk about what people are doing for the holidays, what vacations they have coming up,” movies, plays, or sports you or your kids play, Pachter says. “Then you have a common bond.” Three things Pachter recommends steering clear of: sex, politics and religion. And as hard as it can be, don’t gossip about co-workers. If you get stuck, “You can listen, but don’t contribute.”
  • Mingle. Move beyond your usual circle of co-workers and introduce yourself to people you might not run into otherwise. “It’s a great place to network with more senior people who could influence your career,” Hosking says.
  • Leave the thigh-high dress and ripped jeans at home. Think business casual. If you think something’s too suggestive or casual, it probably is, Pachter says.
  • Look like you’re having fun, even if you’re not. Body language can reveal a lot about a person’s attitude. You might be there under duress, but you don’t need to show it. Frowning, crossing your arms or sitting at the table texting will broadcast how much fun you’re not having, Pachter says. To boost your confidence talking to higher ups, practice a few “power poses” before you go, suggests career coach Susan Joyce, in this blog post.
  • Don’t get plowed. If you’re not a party person, it’s easy to drink too much to make yourself feel more comfortable. Don’t.  A participant in one of the etiquette seminars Pachter teaches shared the story of a young man who got drunk at his company Christmas party, told off his boss and got fired on the spot. “The next day he couldn’t understand why his badge didn’t work,” she says. If you do over-imbibe, accept any morning-after ribbing. “It usually blows over,” Pachter says, “but if you get defensive, they’ve found your vulnerability and it’ll tend to stick around.”
  • Take pictures, but ask before posting anything online. Despite years of warnings about the damage people can do to themselves and their friends by posting pictures of potentially compromising situations on Facebook or elsewhere, it still happens all the time, Pachter says. Always ask.
  • Brief your spouse. If you’re bringing a significant other, give them the 411 in advance on co-workers you work with that they should know.
  • Don’t cut out early. If it’s a dinner, stay through dessert. If there’s dancing, stick around for at least one song.  “If everyone in your department is staying, you should stay awhile too,” Pachter says.
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