Office holiday parties put you in an odd place where the normal rules governing socialization and appropriateness are skewed, if not thrown out altogether. Behavior is expected to be looser than your everyday office behavior. However, you are also expected to not go buck wild and behave like you are at some frat party. Even though you are out of the office, people are watching, status and reputation are on the line, and fit for upcoming promotions is being evaluated.

You may ask, “What do my table manners have to do with my ability to manage projects?” Hey, I never said the practice was fair; I only said it happens. Just be grateful you know and pass the word on to your friends. If you have any office rivals that you would like to see bite the dust, conveniently neglect to pass on this advice to them. Office Party Karaoke | Career Resources

Given the myriad of pitfalls to which one can fall prey at these shindigs, I am providing a few common blunders for you to avoid. Write these down and put them in your pocket. Review them every ten minutes. Without further ado, five office party blunders to avoid like the Ebola virus:

1. Getting drunk. I know. Your first reaction is, I’m ruining all your fun, how can you show your fun side without everybody’s favorite social lubricant, blah blah blah. It’s not uncommon for people to have a sip here, a sip there. I’m talking about getting hammered. I’m talking about you laughing for no reason and imagining the fondue fountain is Vanna White. I’m talking about you, in a drunken lapse of judgment, making a lewd comment about the boss’ wife during a horribly off-key karaoke performance of La Bamba. I’m talking about you losing your lunch all over the buffet. Simply put, I’m talking about you getting out of control.

Nothing makes you more vulnerable to embarrassing faux pas than being out of control of what you say and do. Moreover, people who get drunk are viewed as having some deeper emotional or mental issues. Even more dangerous than the ill physical effects of inebriation in a professional environment are the things you might do.

All of those things that you would never do in your right mind have the potential to come forth when you are plastered. For example, one long-time employee, who was married with three kids, was known for being good pals with her male co-workers, but with no real questionable activities. At one office party, she had one drink too many and laid a big wet kiss on one of her co-workers. He was embarrassed. The next day, she was mortified. The news spread like wildfire. Soon, everyone in the office knew and was too embarrassed to talk to her about it. The boss had to bring her in and talk to her about appropriate behavior. Her credibility and faithfulness as a wife were soon in question.

It’s just better to stay in control of yourself. And if everyone else is getting hammered except you, you’re in a perfect position to get a whole lot of blackmail fodder. Sit back, relax, and get your camera phone ready. And, of course, be a designated driver.

2. Eating with your hands, chewing with your mouth open, etc. Remember all those things Momma told you not to do at the table? Well, be especially careful not to do them at the office party. Momma told you not to do them because they’re gross and make you look like a Cro Magnon man hovering over a fresh kill. Not a good image to convey to the people who will work with you or above you and may be deciding your next promotion.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, the rules include: don’t start eating until everyone at your table has been served; don’t eat with your hands; chew with your mouth closed; don’t talk with food in your mouth; keep your elbows off the table; don’t slurp or smack; cut meat with your right hand while holding your fork with your left; and, of course, don’t let any gaseous explosions escape audibly.

Forgetting the rules makes you look slothful, uncouth, and lacking in self-discipline and refinement. You want to come across less like Homer Simpson and more like James Bond. See the difference? Homer. 007. Homer. 007.

3. Singing badly. Many company holiday parties will include an open karaoke stage. Some people can actually achieve new office celebrity status by bringing down the house. These people are good singers or, at the very least, have some strong stage presence. On the other hand, some people can expose themselves to unnecessary embarrassment and humiliation by getting up and slaughtering some Elvis classic. These people are bad singers and should only perform publicly when everyone within earshot is drunk.

If you are a bad singer, you can’t hit the correct note to save your life, and lyrics do not make it from your eyes to your brain to your mouth, please do yourself a favor and stay far away from the karaoke machine. You think it would be really funny if you got up and totally bombed. Unfortunately, it just makes it look like you have no idea how bad you sound. Nobody laughs. Your audience just lowers their heads in shame.

I recommend you show your humor in some other way- parlor tricks, perhaps, or bird calls. Just please stay away from the stage.

4. Putting down the food, setting, decorations, etc. Chances are the boss or his assistant picked the place, food, decorations, and entertainment. These people are very influential and important to your future progress in the company. They may be sitting at your table or behind you. They’re probably within earshot, at least. So, if the abalone eggrolls make you nauseous, keep it to yourself. If the mauve napkins don’t meet your standards, hold it in. If parking was a pain in the neck, exercise restraint. By holding your tongue, you will keep from making yourself look ungracious and unpolished and offending people you want on your side.

5. Staying home. People do take note of who comes and who is missed. Not being there tells your colleagues you do not want to socialize with them. It tells them you are not personally invested in the company. It tells them you think you’re too good for their party. None of these are good traits for an employee. More importantly, as illogical as this sounds, your boss may not consider you for promotions based on your lack of attendance.

They want someone who loves spending time with co-workers, someone who wants to celebrate the successes. They don’t want someone who comes to work just to put in time and couldn’t care less about the company or the people who work there. Show that you care about your company and co-workers and show up to the party. You might just have a good time.

About the author Marcus Varner earned his BA in English from Brigham Young University with a Creative Writing emphasis. He is currently in his second year at BYU’s lauded MBA program studying Marketing. He blogs, writes fiction and screenplays, loves movies, and can’t resist playing superheroes with his kids.

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2 comments on “Office Party Blunders

  • Have you ever considered that some people might stay home from office parties because they fear that they might be expected to drink? Some people are nondrinkers (teetotalers, if you will), and to expect them to drink at office parties would, I strongly believe, ruin the mood for them.

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