#22: Work Christmas Party

The year is drawing to a close, and you’re at the top of your game. You caught that discrepancy in the numbers from second quarter and saved your company millions (probably). Now you got the big wigs’ attention, and your department head has been awfully nice in anticipation of your promotion. All in all, things are really shaping up for you at the firm. Better seal the upper management deal this weekend at the office Christmas party. Go ahead and alert the National Guard, because Winter Story YOU is about to blow in.

Office Christmas Party?! Hold the phone! No, literally put the line on hold and take this call of advice. The cliché about office Christmas parties is as real as your firm’s online content filter. All the hard work and long hours you put in during the year can be wiped out as soon as your necktie makes the drunken transformation to a headband. You’ve just put in too many hours to be that guy. Seriously.

The work Christmas party may seem like the perfect time to relax and introduce the work crowd to the real you, but unfortunately this is still a work function so the real you is going to have to stay in the real world. Even though this party is set in a location outside the office, the fact that there are work people present still makes it a work function. The only “relaxed” thing here is the cut of that foreign IT guy’s khakis, so keep the professional facade up and don’t do anything stupid.

Good news! There’s an open bar… but that doesn’t mean it’s open for you. The open bar is like your boss tying a bar of gold around a bear’s neck; he’s testing you. You may think you’re up to the challenge, but just like that bear, your boss plays for keeps. He wants people like you to lose control so he can always have something over you. That way if you’re ever on the chopping block he has more than one reason to let you go. Open bars are only truly open at weddings or college graduations. You know, actual celebrations. This is really just an opportunity for the boss’s wife to show off her new gown.

But you need a couple drinks to hit on Susie from accounting. She’s so pretty she makes you nervous, especially when she smiles with just her eyes. Maybe this is a perfect time to make your move, you make a crack about the new Xerox machine and in minutes you’re driving her home. This almost sounds like a good idea IF you didn’t work together. C’mon, unless you work at a skateboard company, no one’s getting laid tonight. If they did, it’s going to become a scandal and then someone has to get fired. Just smile at Susie from across the room and IGNORE the Michael Jackson song that’s playing…

Don’t dance. Don’t dance. Whatever you do, don’t dance. Nothing is going to hurt your career more than spinning around on the dance floor. There’s a reason no breakdancer has ever been featured in Forbes magazine, and nothing you’re about to do tonight is ever going to change that. Booze tirades can be forgiven, but bad dancing is FOREVER.

The office Christmas party can be a good place to relax and enjoy your coworkers on your way to a nice Christmas bonus, but it can also be a good place to talk, dance, or even puke your way out of a nice Christmas bonus. Leave your desire to impress work people at work and just keep this thing light. Pre-set a drink limit and a time to make a moderately early exit. The only thing worse than being the drunk guy is the guy who’s there way too long so just make an appearance, shake the boss’s hand, and casually begin to plot your exit strategy. Make it look like you’re a man who has a fast-paced, demanding life outside of work as well. This idea may seem counter-intuitive to enjoying yourself at a party, but keep in mind this is still your job, and jobs aren’t enjoyable.