Surviving the Office Christmas Party (with your reputation intact)

It may feel as though Christmas has been in full swing since before Donald Trump was voted in as the next President of the United States (purely coincidence I am assured…), but now we have actually reached the month of December it is time for the festive season to begin in earnest.

So, as the office begins to wind down for the holiday, the flipside is a gearing up of social activity that takes place under the all encompassing umbrella of Christmas. A single word that has become the justification for all manner of gluttonous shenanigans – from scoffing treats with abandon to midweek drinks sessions that promise to be quiet but end up with the bells “ringing out for Christmas” inside your head the next morning.

Still, what the heck?! It’s Christmas right? There aren’t many months in the year which come with an in-built excuse like December…

Of course, a big part of this season is the grand event of The Office Christmas Party. For some it is a time of reflection (how many of these have I done now?) and for others a time to bond (nothing like letting your hair down with the team by raiding the dark recesses of your wardrobe and finally plucking up the courage to wear that item you bought for the party last year but didn’t at the last moment). However, for a minority, the Christmas party season will be a time of toe curling shame, as they go down in history as the Christmas party story of the year.

Do not laugh. Few people go out with the intention of turning into the Nightmare of Christmas, and the ghost of excess can strike anyone, from the newly embedded graduate recruit to the executive who really should know better…

Avoiding the pitfalls of the office Christmas party –

You are at a party, but you are also still at work. That’s right. Your employer may have laid on a lavish spread but that is not the same as a friend or family doing the same. While the drink may flow, you have not been ushered into an autonomous ‘drink everything that comes your way’ comfort zone – the same rules apply. Conduct yourself responsibly.

Eat the food. Over the years I have had the pleasure (and sometimes displeasure) of tasting a range of party foods that are brought out to compliment the alcohol. It’s important to eat it, even if eating isn’t foremost in your mind. An obvious route to becoming the party casualty is hitting the free booze on an empty stomach after a day at your desk.

Drink sensibly. There’s something about the Christmas party season that leads to the common sense switch getting temporarily shut down for some people. They will ignore the fact that red wine doesn’t agree with them and then follow on with white, beer and a few shots of the Christmas spirit. Somewhere along the way the sleigh will become detached from the reindeer and the drunken freefall can end up anywhere. Stick to what you know and don’t mix your drinks, however much of a good idea it sounds at the time.

Don’t network. There are times for networking and schmoozing those in the upper echelons of the company, but the Christmas party is not necessarily that time, especially when your ruby red lips and teeth belie the fact that you’ve sunk at least a bottle of cheap red as a pre-event warm up in the local pub. Polite conversation early in the evening, good. Cornering your boss later in the evening to give your slurred thoughts on restructuring the whole department, bad.

Don’t mix social media and alcohol. Period! Don’t drink and tweet. Every year a career will end this way.

Don’t pull a sickie. You may well have ignored all the above advice and be the laughing stock of not only your own office, but departments around the world, thanks to those photos you posted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram last night… but don’t you dare call in sick the next morning.

Do get a cold. To avoid any risk of offending anyone at the Christmas party, try to come down with the cold a couple of days before. A genuine get out of jail free card of an excuse that comes with extra sympathy points….

Luan de Burgh

December 2016

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of The de Burgh Group – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.