The Dos and Don’ts of Office Holiday Parties

Dec 21, 2017 | Jessica Ogilvie

It’s December! The time for holiday cookies, holiday cards, and holiday office parties! Yes, the ones where people get too drunk and do embarrassing things and/or don’t get drunk enough and sit in the corner talking about their kids until it’s a respectable time to leave. Yay!

So how should you, the ideal party guest, behave at your office party? Maybe you’re there as an interloper (i.e., freelancer) or maybe it’s your own small business’ fete. Either way, you want everyone to enjoy themselves and you want them to leave happy and you want them to continue working with you in the new year. So here are some parting words of guidance for navigating 2017’s last hurrahs.

Do: Talk to Someone New

That’s right, we are not going to start this off by telling you not to get drunk (that comes later)! A nice thing to do around this time of year is to not be a hermit. Everyone is in a more giving mood, and that extends to social situations.

Whereas most people (including you, us, and everyone) really kinda don’t want to have to make small talk with people they don’t know at other times of the Grecian calendar, people are just a little happier during the holidays, a little less worried about stuff, and a little more open to talking to new folks.

So if you’re at a party where you know, say, three people, but there are 30 people in attendance, go ahead and take the leap: Introduce yourself to someone new. You don’t have to stay talking to them for the rest of the night — in fact, you would probably both still prefer it to hover around a five-minute convo — but spread some cheer, man.

Don’t: Monopolize Someone’s Time

If you followed our first piece of advice, you might have made a new friend. Go you! But the flip side of meeting a kewl new person is that you must know when to bid your new friend adieu for the moment and gracefully see yourself out of the conversation.

No matter how pleasant they may be acting towards you, chances are that they don’t want to delve into Middle East foreign policy for the next hour, or hear about your family history that has led you to decide that you do not, under any circumstances, fly home for the holidays (not after the 2003 Cranberry Incident, no sir).

Keep conversations short, sweet, and light, and have an exit strategy; note where the bar is so you can excuse yourself (politely!) to get another drink, or make use of a pause in the conversation to say (and mean) something along the lines of, “Well, it was so nice to meet you! I’m so glad we had a chance to chat. Hope you have a great holiday!”

Don’t: Talk Politics

The only exception to this rule is, of course, if you work at a political organization. But in case you haven’t noticed, things are touchy out there in the world right now. You might think you agree with someone on all things politics only to find that you part ways on one particular issue only to find that that issue makes them want to engage in a screaming match with you only to find that you have then ruined the holiday fun-times of everyone within a 50-foot radius.

Alternately — and perhaps more likely — you might just alienate someone by bringing up your political beliefs, or you might make them feel uncomfortable. Most people don’t really want to talk politics at social gatherings, because politics is depressing and also often stupid.

It’s also so divisive as to really not be a very fun topic; not everyone “likes to argue” or feels that political debates are “just lively conversation” (you know who you are). As such, it’s always best to just steer clear of the topic, regardless of what horrific s*%tshow made headlines that morning.

Do: Talk (Light) Business

It may seem counterintuitive to talk about work at a party, but the truth is that it’s the one thing you know you have in common with everyone else there. You all work at or for the same company, so why not delve into what you’re doing for them?

You don’t have to get into office politics (see above), and you certainly don’t want to fall into bragging about your accomplishments, but see if you can’t just make a light-hearted joke about the company (not a person at the company — never a person at the company!), or compliment the new paint job in the communal kitchen. It’s an easy way to find common ground that will lead you back to bullet point one, in which you chat up people you don’t already know that well.

The bottom line in all of this is: Have fun, don’t take the event too seriously, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Most people have enough to worry about throughout the year and want to take this lovely, warm, sparkly holiday to just f*$&ing enjoy themselves for once. Let them do it, and even better, let them remember you as someone who helped them on their journey to joy.