The Office Holiday Party

Over the next two weeks, communities of working people (and many of their cajoled spouses and partners) will be participating in (hopefully) festive holiday parties. Egg nog will flow, budgets will shrink and awkward dancing will ensue.

I love parties. Approximately 92.7% of the time I strive to be the life of them. Sometimes I succeed. Other times my wife asks me powerfully reflective questions about the value of impromptu karaoke at her friend of a friend’s Grandma’s 85th birthday party.

Look, here’s my point: over the past decade I have organized no fewer than 854 parties as well as attended over 16,741 party-like events – about 533 of these were holiday-related celebrations. Further, as a Career Manager, my job puts me at the intersection of ideas, people and resources that all discuss what it takes to be awesome in the world of work. Finally, my LinkedIn profile describes me as a “community-builder” and a “workplace humourist” – which basically means that you will be entertained and educated by the next 20 things that appear in this story.

Readers, with my credibility firmly established, I will now list the Top 10 Dos and Top 10 Don’ts for the Holiday Party at your Office:

Do these 10 Things:

1. Show up Early. Do this to help out, sure. But also do this to get some intimate face-time with decision-makers (ie. your boss or your boss’s boss) before things get too crunk.

2. Be a Host. Many partners hate being dragged to these things, so be sure to include them in conversations and make introductions, give directions and seek out people standing alone.

3. Cleverly Discuss your “Big Ideas”. Without sleezeballing-up the party by discussing the two things nobody wants to hear about (work and you), subtly drop the idea in twenty-seconds-or-less and offer to follow-up about it in the New Year.

4. Showcase your Conversational Currency. From how bad the Maple Leafs are playing to the launch of Civilizations V to BC’s Political Mess to the hottest travel destinations you should be able to weigh in on all of it. And, hey, if you want to mention the Daily Gumboot, well, we wouldn’t hold it against you.

5. Talk to everyone. Be a social butterfly and explore connections beyond your immediate co-workers.

6. Dance! Some etiquette blogs will tell you to a) stay away from the dance floor or b) avoid an early entrance to the dance floor. To them I say – “it’s a party, people!” Keep it classy and simple. And build a little community by bringing some folks up with you. Dancing is contagious and you’ll be a hero for doing what everyone is thinking.

7. Be more Interested than Interesting. Ask a cool, meaningful question. Nod. Smile. Listen. Repeat.

8. Give toasts. Many people hate doing this; so, if you find yourself at your table and no one is stepping up to the plate, come prepared with a short, sweet and festive and friendly holiday toast.

9. Find Common Ground. After two or three glasses of egg nog it might seem like a good idea to get into a raging debate with your colleague’s husband and his “Rob Ford + Don Cherry + FoxNews = AWESOME!” t-shirt. Don’t. ‘Tis not the time or the place. Instead, find the things you have in common and talk about those. If all you can really talk about is eating and breathing, well, do it for five minutes and then refresh your drink.

10. Leave on a High Note. Be like the A-Team and have a fantastic exit strategy. If you can time it after a few hilarious stories, some edutaining fun facts then you will elevate your status to Holiday Party Legend!

Do NOT do these 10 Things:

1. Get Wasted. The idea might seem like a compelling one after your fifth scotch, but it’s not – trust me. Behaviour arising from this seldom a good reputation makes.

2. Talk about Work. Sure, it might come up – after all, it’s a work party. But people are there to celebrate and get to know each other differently, so leave the spreadsheets and strategery at home.

3. Gossip. There are better things to talk about – if you bring up other people in the office make sure the comments are positive ones. Spread love, not rumours.

4. Hit on Peoples’ Spouses/Partners. Hilarious from everyone else’s perspective, but not at all classy.

5. Talk about Yourself. There will be new people – non-everyday-at-the-office-people – so make the conversation about them. Transform every situation from me to we.

6. Eat all the Food. Fun Fact about Socializing: cheese gives you horrible, horrible breath. Also, food is for sharing!

7. Declare War on the War on Christmas. Your beliefs – whatever they may be – are great. It’s just that some people have different ones. Instead of challenging what could very well be a thousand years of culture and ritual, perhaps smile and offer a festive “happy holidays” or “season’s greeting” and celebrate the inclusion of our fantastic communities in Vancouver and beyond.

8. Be a Downer. Sadness and depression and bad vibes, like positive energy, are contagious. If an experiment with positive energy fails to be inspiring and you really feel like being toxic, perhaps say your thanks, pocket a bottle of your favourite something, head home and pop in Love, Actually for some festive, happy-making viewing.

9. Smack-talk [INSERT RIVAL UNIT/DEPARTMENT HERE]. Look, it’s easy to make fun of the Accounting Department. I mean, it’s where all the Accountants work!!! But such behaviour creates silos as well as real and metaphorical barriers within organizations. Be cross-departmental and interdisciplinary in your holiday socializing.

10. Get asked to Leave. Well, if you failed to follow the above 19 things to do/avoid-doing then you have probably arrived at this little gem. And, if it comes to this, the only thing left to do is apologize and not throw up on anything. Hopefully your job is still there on Monday!

So there it is. Good luck navigating your office holiday party. And, most importantly, Happy Holidays!

One thought on “The Office Holiday Party

  1. John, this is hilarious. No, I mean it. This won’t get dissed soon, ya big douche.

    In Edinburgh we had the Christmas party down to a fine art (and apparently they still do), in the form of a Christmas Panto, which generally involved doing most of your “do nots” with such acuity that it all worked out well. Which brings me to a few things you left out, which would presumably make your “do not” list, but are on the Edinburgh compulsory “to do” list:
    -Take off your clothes (there’s a picture of me without trousers at the panto that is floating around somewhere);
    -Raid your colleagues’ stashes of alcohol once you have depleted the party’s supplies;
    -Use a smoke machine (the fire department was called in one year)
    -Pick up the bales of hay used to depict the birthplace of our Saviour and start tossing them around the dancefloor.

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