Legal Blog

Navigating the Office Party

imagesIt may seem like common sense, but your holiday office party (or your significant other’s office party) is not a college kegger.  It’s not an opportunity to drink as much as you want, to show up fashionably late, or treat it like an all-you-can-eat buffet. This is an office event, and yes, everybody is watching you.  So don’t leave the party with the drunken intern. In my work with HR professionals, I regularly receive calls about what do when a party-goer is drinking too much or certain unmentionable and embarrassing incidents occurred at the event that everyone now regrets.  So, what to do.

Know Your Alcohol Consumption Limit

When you notice that an employee has drank beyond his or her limit, remember that safety is paramount. Arrange for transportation home, whether via taxi, Uber, or a responsible sober co-worker. The worst thing that could happen is that employee getting behind the wheel and hurting herself or someone else. Apart from that crucial concern, excessive drinking reflects poorly on the drinker.  So be mindful or have a discrete conversation with your colleague who herself is showing signs of intoxication or whose spouse is beginning to slur words, speak too loudly, dance too provocatively, or just look foolish.  Your colleague will appreciate your advice and thank you Monday morning.


“The office party is the best place to mingle, network, and show a different side of yourself,” says Richie Frieman bestselling author of REPLY ALL…and Other Ways to Tank Your Career, a spin-off of his “Modern Manners Guy” column and podcast for Quick and Dirty Tips™. “Your fun side doesn’t always show through in the office.” Make the most of the opportunity an office party presents. Walk up and talk to people with whom you don’t usually interact on a daily basis. Shake your boss’s hand and thank her for the evening. These small displays of appreciation and interest in co-workers personal lives sow the seeds of future relationships, and others will expect it from you. So don’t sit in the corner hoarding food, idly playing with your phone, or confined in your close clique of office buddies because it looks like you’re bored.  Frieman says, “As a boss or CEO, if I saw employees standing against the wall, or buried in a plate, or on their phone, I would think that person was bored with what I just paid a significant amount of money for; they don’t appreciate what I’ve done; and if they don’t want to be here at a party, they must hate being at the office even more.”

Choose Appropriate Attire

Not sure what to wear? Ask somebody. Frieman suggests inquiring with one of the party planners, or broaching the topic in conversation with co-workers. Don’t over- or under-dress. For events held at the office, that usually means business casual; otherwise, wear what’s suitable to the venue. In the second case, employers have a responsibility to inform employees what’s appropriate through advance notice.

Etiquette Rules Still Apply.

Remember: an office party is an extension of the office and the rules of etiquette still apply.While you don’t have to talk about work (and probably shouldn’t) at an office party, know that your actions have career consequences. Management is watching and may be evaluating candidates to represent the company at future conferences, client meetings, and the like. How you handle yourself in a casual environment speaks volumes about whether you can be trusted in the future to represent your company or one day lead your organization. “I’ve always found that the most successful people in the office are those who are comfortable and charismatic as team players,” says Frieman. “People who can talk about the company with authority and personality are perfect for any role. They’re utility players. And management sees that at parties.  If you’re a wallflower, that night is the time to break out and release your inner extrovert.”



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