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The Art of the Company Holiday Party

holiday party instructions

It’s the end of the year, a time to reflect on huge successes or just be thankful for squeaking by. And how do we celebrate? By extending our workday to attend the worst oxymoron in the world: the company party. We get dressed to the 9’s and mind our P’s & Q’s for fear of potential humiliation. No more than two drinks. Speak to your boss. Don’t use your co-worker’s purse as a barf bag. So many rules and regulations to make sure you don’t receive a pink slip instead of your Christmas bonus.

This year, let’s look at the holiday party not as an exercise in masochism, but as an art. An art, that, when mastered, will raise you and your co-workers above the doldrums of Bing Crosby and holiday cocktails, and bring you the one thing missing from most company holiday parties: tidings of comfort and joy.

This is the Art of the Company Holiday Party. 

Pre Game. The holiday party is upon you and, like any great actor, athlete or accordion player, it’s imperative that you prepare properly for your performance. Get a good night’s sleep. Study up on current events for small talk. Try to have a pleasant day at work with no miscellaneous deadlines hanging over your head, or demands waiting for you when you return to your desk. Be prepared to attack the event with a clear head and an open mind. You’re on at 8.

Think Positive. No, Really. Don’t view the party as working overtime with no pay or incentive. You aren’t staying over extra hours to balance books. You aren’t attending a networking function. You’re here to let loose with people you’ve come to identify as number crunchers, aloof artsy fartsy types, and order barkers. Getting to know and understand them beyond their role will not only make your night go faster, but also your workdays more productive.

Know Your Audience. Not surprisingly, at a work function, no one wants to talk about work. Most people feel like they’re still at work and are trying their best to get out of the mindset of work, which is itself, a lot of work. Talk about politics or religion, or any other topic usually off limits, but not work. Wait out any awkward silences by eating a miniature cupcake.

Eat. Yes! Eat! Eat beforehand to make sure you aren’t ravenous when you get to the party (and in case the food sucks), and eat while you’re there to show you’re not too pretentious for finger food. Just don’t make a Dagwood sandwich out of cookies and cheese wedges. Don’t be that guy.

Be the Hero. At every holiday party there is always the wallflower, the new guy, or an intern waiting for somebody to talk to. Be that somebody. Start some small talk and create a lead in for the people to talk about themselves. People will basically hold the conversation for you, if you let them. Just maintain eye contact, nod and laugh politely at appropriate moments. When the conversation inevitably fizzles, excuse yourself to get another miniature cupcake.

Avoid Mistletoe at All Costs. Seriously. Do we really need to say this? Keep your office fling, flirtation, or fantasies to yourself and not the break room discussion. These types of things never end well, unless your life is a Nicholas Sparks novel. Keep a comfortable distance between you, the mistletoe, and your attractive coworkers. If someone comes on to you, excuse yourself to get a third miniature cupcake.

Drink Like a Boss. Though most advice columns suggest a two drink limit for party goers, we believe you should take a decidedly different approach. The best barometer of alcohol consumption is your boss. Don’t try to go glass for glass, but pay attention to how inebriated he gets during the course of the evening. Make sure your alcohol levels are just below his. This way, anything you do will pale in comparison.

Be Merry. The biggest issue with holiday office parties? Everyone is so self-conscious. They’re worried about what kind of impression they’re making on the boss, whether they’re bonding enough with their coworkers, or whether their date is having a good time. Just be happy! The point of the party is to relax and settle in to the gray area between work and play. This is where you’ll thrive. Find the happy medium where you can be viewed as professional, creative, fun to be around, and, most importantly, fun to work with.

If you follow these tips, you’re sure to win your co-workers’ respect, and maybe even a few new friends. When the lights come on, say your goodnights, thank your boss, head for the door, and grab all the leftover cupcakes you can carry.

Written by Ken Hammond on December 14, 2012

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Written by
Ken Hammond