10 Things Not to Do at a Work Party

Last Updated Dec 7, 2010 8:47 PM EST

10 Things Not to Do at a Work PartySome people look for management wisdom at Harvard Business Review or McKinsey Quarterly. Not me. I go for the lowest common denominator stuff like CNBC writer and comedian Cindy Perman. Seriously, Perman wrote a great piece called What Not to Say at the Office Holiday Party, but I think it's great advice for any work party or function.

Look folks, this is serious stuff. It's actually far easier to self-destruct or even lose your job by doing or saying something dumb at a work party than at any other time. Cindy quotes some sobering data:

  • Nine out of 10 executives say that your behavior at office parties can affect your career - according to a survey by staffing firm The Creative Group.
  • Fourteen percent of employees say they know someone who lost their job over holiday party antics - according to a survey by staffing firm Adecco.
So, to keep you from pissing off your boss, destroying your reputation, or otherwise shooting yourself in the foot or any other body part, here are 10 Things Not to Do at a Work Party (the 10 things are Cindy's, the commentary is mine):
  1. Enjoy the free bar. Back in the day we had a phrase to describe partying screw-ups: "Another alcohol-related incident." There's a good reason for that. Not only does booze change your behavior, it changes your judgment of what behavior is okay. The only way to avoid all that is to have one or two. Period.
  2. Be a negatron. If you whine about the crappy food, the cash bar, the retro music, or the boss being cheap, it'll get around and, in all likelihood, won't be taken very well. Try to have fun with it and, if it really sucks, you can always leave early.
  3. Get all chummy with the boss. The same hierarchy and protocol that exists at work exists outside of work, as well. And for good reason. Your boss is still your boss and, whatever happens at the party, you're still going to be working for this guy in the morning.
  4. Continue the work day. Just because it's the only thing you really have in common with these people doesn't mean anyone wants a continuation of the work day. People like it when others take an interest in what interests them. So do that. Without being too invasive or creepy. I'd avoid politics and religion too, while you're at it.
  5. Mention raises or bonuses. No good can come of it and I can think of at least a dozen ways it can go wrong. If you complain about a bad raise then you're a loser. If you're ecstatic about a big bonus you risk pissing off those who didn't get one. It's all bad.
  6. Talk about what a coworker is now making at a competitor. You'll bring people down and maybe piss off the boss once he hears what you said - too loudly, probably - through the grapevine.
  7. Gossip, especially about office romance. It can only end badly. What if the couple in question is trying to keep it a secret? What if somebody at the party is friends with one of the people in question or worse, is dating one of the people in question? Just don't do it.
  8. Ask who's hotter, Ashley or Jessica. Sexual harassment laws still exist at office parties. Don't even joke about it.
  9. Tell your coworker he's hot! Even worse than talking about others that way, you've just quadrupled your chances of getting fired or getting slapped with a lawsuit. If not, you're still holding up a big sign that says, "I'm drunk and out of control."
  10. Quit. Whether it's the nog or who knows what brings out unbridled honesty or anger in you, just don't actually do anything about it. You'll only succeed in making a scene and locking out your options. Go home and cry to the dog.
Cindy's bottom-line advice is this: "Two drinks. Mingle. Be positive. Especially to the boss. And when your co-workers start to look attractive, it's time to go." And don't call in sick with a hangover the next day; everyone will think you're a lightweight.

Read the original post here. And yes, it's definitely worth it.

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Image courtesy Flickr user thelastminute