How To Be a Pro at Your Office Holiday Party

The trouble with office parties is that they are a bit like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Looking at it from the outside, you see a group of people who, for the most part, are pretty familiar with each other, a group of people who may spend more time together than they do with their families. 

Yet this familiarity can lead to a false sense of security.

It may lead people to believe they can really let their hair down like they would with a bunch of close friends on a trip to Vegas. 

The office holiday party is not the same as going to Vegas with friends.

It's an event where you have to be a pro and here's why...

You don’t really know what you don’t know.

You may think you know someone well after spending all day, every day with him or her at work but you probably don’t - because working is different than socializing. We all go around living by a set of our own rules that we use while we’re with people other than the people who we live with.   There may be things that people would never say or do in front of you despite them seeing you every day.

I agree that if you do spend a lot of time in the trenches with someone, you may get to know them, but it is unlikely that you have that close a relationship with everyone at work.

The office holiday party can fool you into thinking you are not at work because all of the sudden, your whole work world has been turned into a nightclub.

Take it from a professional party goer!

As a professional freelance musician who has been working for about 30+ years, I have a lot of colleagues, some I know better than others and there are some I have known for that whole time. I have gone on tour with some of them for weeks on end. 

I have found myself at a lot of post concert receptions and parties over the years, some in people’s homes and some in more formal settings. 

What I do remember most about these events – the times when someone crossed the line, the times when people forgot where they were or whom they were with because they forgot that all of what was happening around them was because of their work. Fortunately it wasn't that often.

The worst of those times of course, are those when someone took advantage of the host. I’ve seen the typical stuff - the excessive drinking, the damage to the venue, the saying of inappropriate things to the host, or the stuffing of food (or in some cases, wine bottles) in their pockets. These were people who felt they were owed something more than the money they were paid to do their job, and a party thrown for their benefit was not enough.

In my world, there are people known as "contractors". They hire and bring musicians together for various tours and concerts.  How a musician performs on stage and behaves off the stage is always considered when a contractor is deciding whether to hire someone again.

The question for the contractor is, “are these people worth the trouble they cause after the gig is over?” Chances are that if they’re not one of a very small percentage of eccentric superstar employees that exist in the world who make or break a gig, you won’t see these people again. I  have seen some people learn this lesson that hard way.

It might be the first time you've chatted with "that guy" from Logistics.

The parties that accompany work happen because employers want to show appreciation for your hard work.  They also want you to get to know each other a little better. Why?  Because that can help everyone collaborate a little better. It can make your workplace a more fun place to work and it's good for business.

And, of course, a lot depends on your workplace culture as to what’s acceptable or not. While employers want you to enjoy yourself, make sure you know where the lines are.



To help you out here's a little info-graphic so you can be  a "pro" at your next office holiday party. Share freely.


Every experience adds to Your growth.

Office parties are great for chipping away at the silos that can build up in organizations. They're also a great time for creating new stories letting you see people in a different light. Perhaps a more human side than you see in the office.

Every interaction with your work group influences your supervisors’ and colleagues’ perception about who you are.  By keeping this in mind, you can shape those perceptions by how you choose to behave in that social session.  In effect, you are never off the clock. Inappropriate behaviours can end up being CLMs (career-limiting moves).


Is your company having a party this year?  Please let us know. I'd also be interested to hear about what you like or dislike about your office holiday party. Here's to you having a wonderful time.