Seasonal celebrations

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It’s that time of year again! Beginning this week and weekend, many companies will hold their holiday parties. These parties can be the highlight of the holiday season, as well as a way for co-workers and managers to bond and communicate and an opportunity to celebrate achievements.

Of course, it can also be a chance to watch uncomfortably as you co-worker fights with his or her spouse, gets too tipsy and too touchy-feely, or starts disrobing on the dance floor!

With that in mind, here’s some news and common sense ideas about how to avoid the possible pitfalls of a holiday bash.

DIALING DOWN THE JINGLE: For many companies, the economic slowdown has required a change in focus. Companies have either scaled down their celebrations or, in many cases, canceled them altogether.

Although this can put fear and uncertainty into the heart of any worker, it doesn’t necessarily mean trouble at the workplace. Many companies who have decided to cancel their seasonal gatherings are doing so out of a desire to be financially conservative and to better spend that money on company resources – and on retaining employees.

If your company isn’t holding its party this year, encourage smaller gatherings to celebrate your team, department or business unit. Instead of spending money on presents, decorations or entertainment, your team can gather together and volunteer for a nonprofit organization that needs help. You can also conduct a food drive to help the increasing number of people who are affected by the economy and are turning to food pantries.

HOLIDAY PARTY ETIQUETTE: One consistent water cooler topic at this time of year is gossip about the party. No matter how prepared the team is or how professional the workforce is at your company, chances are that co-workers + social gathering + alcohol = a hot mess that everyone talks about the next day.

Our friend J.T. O’Donnell is a career expert and author, and has shared these tips with us about holiday party pitfalls and how to avoid them. So here’s the top 10 offenses to avoid at this year’s company holiday bash:

Assuming you aren’t required to go. Unless you’ve got an unbelievably good reason, you need to attend. Not attending speaks volumes about your attitude toward the company.

“If you can’t appreciate what the company is doing to celebrate the holidays and its efforts to make you feel like a part of their family, then you send a clear message that you don’t put much stock in the employee-employer relationship,” O’Donnell says. If you absolutely can’t go, let management know in advance and give specific reasons why not.

Dressing inappropriately. Don’t dress as if you were going to a club or trolling for dates, O’Donnell says. Even if you’re hittin’ the town later, you still need to dress properly for the party.

“Maybe you’re known for being very stylish in your private life, but when it comes to a work function, it’s better to blend in as opposed to making a statement that might get misinterpreted,” she says. If you show up and realize you aren’t dressed appropriately, try to make light of it. Better to acknowledge it’s not acceptable than pretend that it is.

Attending on an empty stomach. Holiday events typically involve drinks and appetizers before the meal. But, appetizers often don’t make it all the way through the crowd, O’Donnell says. It’s better to get some food in your stomach prior to the event so your first drink doesn’t go straight to your head.

Pitching ideas to upper-management. Some folks view the company party as a way to schmooze the higher-ups or tell them their grand plans to save the company.  “Keep the talk to lighter subjects,” advises O’Donnell. “There’s nothing worse than a brown-nosing badger to ruin a manager’s evening.”


Getting drunk! Only 70 percent of companies are serving alcohol at their holiday parties this year, a 15 percent drop from last year, according to a recent survey. There’s a reason for this, people! Bottom line: Don’t drink excessively at the holiday party. You’ll end up saying or doing something you’ll regret.

Hooking up! Co-workers secretly harboring feelings for each other often think it’s OK to act on those feeling at the holiday event, O’Donnell says. Not so. “It’s important to act like you do at work. You’re not paid to get cozy on the job, and the holiday party is an extension of your job,” she says. Keep your distance until after the event when you can have some privacy.

Bringing a ‘crazy’ date. If your spouse or date is known as the ‘life of the party,’ there’s a chance he or she will make the night unforgettable – and not in a good way, O’Donnell says.

Don’t give employers any reason to wonder if you aren’t as you appear on the job. If your date starts to make a scene, cut the night short.

Being a ‘Scrooge.’ Don’t be a Debbie Downer and walk around with a scowl on your face, O’Donnell says. If you aren’t excited to be there, keep your thoughts to yourself.

“These events are meant to give employees an opportunity to connect on a personal level so they can relate to one another at work,” she says. “You don’t have to overdo it, but you have to at least do it.” Check your negativity at the door, put on a smile and socialize.


Not using your best table manners. It seems obvious but for many, manners go out the door after business hours – especially with a drink in hand, O’Donnell says. No swearing, chew with your mouth closed and remember to say “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me.”


“Dirty dancing” or executing “athletic displays.” “Even though krumping, bumping and grinding are all the rage, these moves have no place on the corporate dance floor,” O’Donnell advises. “Moreover, back flips, splits, jumps and spins can only lead to disaster.” Keep moves clean and in control.

Even if folks are begging for you to dance, O’Donnell says, keep in mind that everyone loves to watch someone else embarrass themselves.

One Comment
  1. The company party doesn’t have to be a disaster. Look at it as going work – just in a different venue, with more people, food and drinks. Best behavior, a nice (not naughty) outfit, and no more than two drinks should protect an attendee from making a mistake. After it’s over, go out with friends afterward and do whatever you want.

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