5 holiday office party rules

Holiday work party Image courtesy Flickr user thelastminute

COMMENTARY Holiday office parties create a sense of community and culture, foster relationships, show appreciation and are great for morale. So what's the downside? Not a whole lot.

And yet the modern-day Grinch -- political correctness -- threatens to steal what little enjoyment employees might get out of the holidays at work. The typical media story about holiday work party do's and don'ts is full of fear-mongering about inappropriate behavior, losing your job or blowing up your career. For example:

Ah, the holiday office party. A time for employees to wind down, loosen their ties, drink some bubbly, and enjoy a night of much-earned revelry with co-workers. That is, until they wake up hungover and half-naked on top of the copy machine, covered in Post-it notes and crumpled Four Loko cans, and realize their reputation is ruined.

What fuels this populist garbage are self-serving surveys by staffing firms warning that just about everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who did something stupid at a holiday party and got admonished for it. Horrors. It reminds me of the germaphobia sweeping America. It makes you wonder how in the world anyone ever lived to be 80 without antibacterial soap and disinfectant wipes.

Look. If you lose your job over something you do at a holiday party, either the job wasn't worth having or you've got bigger problems than an article can fix.

I've been throwing and going to work-related parties -- holiday and otherwise -- for 30 years. I like to party, have a good time, and really get to know coworkers, employees, customers, aliens from another planet, whoever.

I've seen CEOs dance with nonexistent partners, heard VPs admit to things they probably shouldn't have, and had my admin pass out in a spare bedroom before the party even got started. And none of that changed a thing.

As long as you've got a little common sense and follow these five rules, you'll do fine. If, on the other hand, your interpretation of common sense is to grab your boss's wife when nobody's looking, you might want to get some help for that.

Show up. About the dumbest thing you can do is not show up or eat some quick grub and scram. You may as well just announce to everyone that you've got no team spirit and you think your coworkers are all a bunch of losers you don't want to associate with. Also, one post I read said to "prepare your spouse" and review the names of "key executives they might be introduced to." Wow, how controlling and idiotic can you get?

Have fun. I mean, isn't that what holiday celebration is supposed to be about? Enjoy the libations. Eat. Dance. Sing karaoke. Whatever. Just keep your wits about you and don't get Marilyn Monroe flirty or falling down drunk. Try to enjoy the entertainment, not be the entertainment.

Get to know people. Let your guard down and get to know folks on a personal level. That's better for building lasting relationships and fostering communication than any team-building exercise. And no, that doesn't mean you should take the opportunity to tell people what you really think of them. Come on; keep it positive.

Schmooze a little. Schmoozing gets a bad rap because most people either don't know what it really means or don't know how to do it right. Schmoozing is about relating to peopleby getting to know them. If you're genuine and really listen, you'll connect with people. That's a good thing. Just don't talk work -- nobody wants to hear it.

Don't do anything I wouldn't do. Look, it may be a holiday office party, but you're still going to have to wake up and face these people in the morning. This isn't like an anything goes, no-holds-barred kind of thing. Don't do stuff like talk about raises, get into heated political debates, gossip about office affairs or take the opportunity to start one. Don't be a dope.

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