Office Holiday Party Do’s and Don’ts

Jan 24, 2019

By Nicole Williams

The office Holiday party isn’t an optional event. You must show up, even if the thought of spending your precious off hours with coworkers and colleagues is less than appealing. So, put on your nicest (nonrevealing) business attire and vow to make the most of the opportunity. Here are a few tips.

DON’T: Be Glued to Your Smartphone
Career success is all about relationships. If you're busy tweeting or taking pictures, that means you're not interacting with your boss or other executives. This is a work event, so bring your best, most sociable self. In addition, if you are tethered to your smartphone, you may be tempted to post inappropriate updates from the company party—and that won’t do you or anyone else any good.

DO: Put Yourself Out There
This is the party that all the bigwigs attend. It’s casual, festive, relaxed, and the perfect opportunity for you to introduce yourself to the CEO and make an impact on your difficult-to-pin-down boss. You see your team and other colleagues each and every day, so expand your reach. Get out of the corner, move away from the bar, and mingle.

DON’T: Forget to Study the Guest List
Chances are you’ll be interacting with many people you either don’t know or barely know, fresh faces you don't interact with on a day-to-day basis. Task yourself with getting to know these people instead of gossiping with your friends. Need some conversation starters? Study their LinkedIn profiles, and see what you both have in common.

DO: Get Personal
While, yes, this is the office party, it’s not the time to talk shop. Don’t even think about asking about that promotion or raise, bringing up a contentious issue, or mentioning that stressful meeting from last week. Instead, leverage the fact that your boss or client has had a drink and is in a relaxed state of mind. Ask about where she went to school. Does he play tennis or golf? Where does she find all those great suits she sports at the office? Find things in common and take the relationship to the next level. The more you listen and make meaningful connections, the more allied she’s going to be to your success. However, don’t cross the lines of propriety: “I’m originally from Wisconsin” is good; “I think my beau is cheating on me”—not so much.

DO: Be Seen with a Drink
While you’d think it goes without saying, based upon the horror stories we’ve all heard or witnessed, it’s worth repeating: this is not an occasion to get bombed. While the easy solution would seem to be to keep your hands off the punch, it’s not. Your coworkers will be indulging in a glass or two, and you don’t want to make them uncomfortable. Think about this: a coworker told me that because she didn’t drink at all at the office party, people started speculating that she had a drinking problem! So have a glass of wine (but not five). And the truth is, no one needs to know what you’re drinking. Club soda or diet cola is fine. You could also ask for a spritzer, which dilutes the alcohol level of your drink.

DON’T: Be That “Party Girl or Guy”
While you should feel free to take off your suit jacket, make sure your Santa bra isn’t the only thing you’re wearing underneath. If you’re using this soiree as a career-making event, remember to keep the emphasis on “office” not “party.” Steer clear of the karaoke. Remember the buffet is not all you can eat. And sitting on your coworker’s knee is a no-no.

DO: Follow Up
You’ve made a great impact and while the hope is that your boss was paying attention to your stellar performance, don’t take it for granted. Follow up with a “great to get to know you” e-mail to anyone you connected with. If you found a common connection—a love of gardening, travel or Thai food—search the web and find a great article, restaurant recommendation, or discount travel site and send it along.

You can brush up your interpersonal skills in these AMA seminars:

About the Author(s)

Nicole Williams is LinkedIn's Career Expert in helping professionals understand how to enhance their careers using the LinkedIn network. The company she founded, WORKS by Nicole Williams, was named one of Forbes magazine's Top 10 Career Websites for Women. Her book, Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success, has been optioned by the producers behind the Academy Award-winning films American Beauty, Milk and Silver Linings Playbook. For more information: