The Work Christmas Party
By Susan. M. Heathfield

The festive season is well and truly underway. Christmas is a time to be merry, in keeping with the season, this article looks at the blunders made at work Christmas parties.

The office party during the holidays or any other time of the year is a key professional opportunity to mingle casually with coworkers, impress bosses, and get to know people you donít see every day. Unfortunately, the office party is also a prime opportunity to ruin your professional reputation, alienate coworkers, and fail to capitalize on networking opportunities.

These are seven common office party blunders. Heed them. Some are missed opportunities, but some may cost you your career.

Drink Too Much at the Office Party

Drinking too much at the office party is the most egregious offense. Itís not just the drinking, though anything excessive is inappropriate at an office party, but the actions that result from over imbibing. With normal inhibition affected, drunken office party attendees have been known to make passes at coworkers, harass partners on the dance floor, and touch coworkers in inappropriate and unwanted ways.

If you drink too much at the office party, make amends by apologizing to anyone you may have offended. Donít ignore your behavior and hope people didnít notice or that coworkers will have short memories. They did and they wonít. Your behavior will be that talk of the office until something more interesting happens. At best, coworkers will accept your apology and life moves on. At worst, you are charged in a sexual harassment complaint. Want to go there? I think not.

Dress Suggestively at the Office Party

Errors in clothing selection for the office party affect coworkersí opinion of your judgment, credibility and competence. No matter how festive, the office party is a business occasion; professional, not sexy or suggestive, attire should rule the night. Does this mean you canít dress up in your favorite party dress or pant suit? Not at all. Just use tasteful discretion in your selection of attire for your office party.

Fail to Attend the Office Party Without a Good Reason

Your company schedules an office party to reward and recognize employees, to provide an opportunity for team building among coworkers, and to promote coworkers getting to know each other informally. I have heard every possible reason why people donít attend their office party. The most common reasons involve the office party infringing on their personal family time; a dislike of small-talk and social events, in general; and a genuine family or personal event scheduled at the same time.

Cooperation with your organizationís mission in paying for the office party signals your commitment to the company and your understanding of the goals of the office party. A couple of hours a year is barely worth a complaint. Let the boss know when a personal commitment precludes your attendance.

Flirt With Coworkers or Their Significant Others at the Office Party

Flirting, especially mixed with alcohol, is unwanted at a business event. It is unwelcome, unexpected, and usually unwanted. Flirting that involves touching can result in a sexual harassment complaint in a worst case scenario. At best, it annoys coworkers at an event that is supposed to draw people together and create a stronger team.

Bring Children or Uninvited Guests to the Office Party

Bringing uninvited guests, or your children to an adult party, distracts you from the mission of the office party, adds to your employerís expense, and may make legitimate attendees miss out on their share of the food, drink, employee gifts and company swag.

Most companies specify the expected attendees, the recommended attire, and the schedule of events in advance of the office party. You usually have all the information you need to comfortably attend your office party if you just read the invitation. Some may even specify that additional guests are welcome Ė but, most donít - at significant annual office parties.

Forget That the Office Party Is Still a Company Business Function

The office party is not the time to complain about your boss or your company. It is a time to get to know your coworkers more personally so you can work together more effectively in the future. It is also a chance to chat informally with the bosses and members of departments with whom you don't work evey day. With thess goals in mind, watch that you listen as much as you talk; draw out your coworkers.

Leave your company complaints, grievances, off-color jokes, and negativity at home.

In fact, donít talk about work at all. Talking about work leaves significant others out of the conversation. Know the goals of the function and cooperate to achieve them at the office party.

Be the Last to Leave the Office Party

No matter how much fun youíre having or how much youíre enjoying the band, when you stay too long at the office party, you may have over stayed your welcome. The possibility of drinking too much and committing other gaffes increases with the passing of time. Stay a couple of hours, talk to each coworker and the bosses, then graciously and gracefully excuse yourself. Let your reputation live to attend another office party.