13 Holiday Office Party Rules To Follow For An Awesome Night, Not An Awkward One

When it comes to your holiday office party, you only have one shot to make a great impression. So before you strut in wearing jeans and your best ugly Christmas sweater to find everyone else is in cocktail attire, or get caught off guard asking your CEO their name, read up on these holiday office party rules to ensure an enjoyable and embarrassment-free evening.

Your holiday office party is a time to celebrate with your colleagues, but at the end of the day it's still a work event. While you'll be hanging out in a more casual setting, you're still there representing your professional brand. This duality can incite some anxiety, and raise a number of questions about how to best conduct yourself.

I spoke with LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher to see if she could provide some pointers for surviving your holiday work event while also putting your best foot forward. Her recent post on this subject for LinkedIn's blog provides a valuable set of guidelines. The Dos and Don'ts cover every step of the process from accepting the invitation to sharing on social media after the party, and touch on topics like who to bring, who to talk to, and even what not to eat. So read on for more of her advice before heading out for the evening so you can get into the holiday office party spirit completely stress-free.

1. DO RSVP And Attend

The first step in the right direction is committing to attend the party. Even if your December schedule is packed with holiday-related events, make it a priority to save the date and show up at your company's get-together. Your presence will communicate to your company and colleagues that you value them. It's also a great opportunity you don't want to pass up to get to enhance your work relationships in a more casual setting, and possibly even better your career.

2. DON'T Dress Like You're Going To The Club

While it might be on a Friday or Saturday night, and you are encouraged to relax and be yourself, your holiday office party is still a work event. This means that while you have the freedom to wear something "fancy and festive," it still needs to be work-appropriate. If you're unsure of the dress code, ask the party's organizers, or if you're new to the company, find out from a vet who's been before. Fisher advises, "You want the conversation to focus on what you have to say rather than what you’re wearing."

3. DO Bring Someone "Who Puts You At Ease"

If you're allowed a plus one (and this is important to check!), Fisher suggests bringing someone "who makes you feel comfortable, someone who brings out the best in you so you can be yourself with your colleagues." If you don't currently have a partner, bring a best friend or perhaps a friend who just moved to the city that you want to show around. They should make you feel confident and be a positive window into your personal life, as they'll be an extension of who you are to your colleagues.

4. DON'T Be Late

While in other instances you may prefer to arrive fashionably late, be sure to be punctual for your office event. Fisher advises getting to the party within 15 minutes of the start time to show respect to the organizers. "A few people will already be there so you can easily strike up a conversation right when you walk in the door." Punctuality shows you're responsible and dependable. You aren't scoring any points at the office for strolling in after everyone else.

5. DO Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Fisher says the holiday office party is "your chance to mingle with people you don’t normally work with in a more casual setting." When you find yourself sticking close to your work buddies, make an effort to branch out and meet new people. Fisher suggests having a "wingwoman" partner up with you to make new introductions less awkward. Chances are you'll make some new work friends, or at least friendly contacts you can reach out to down the road.

6. DO Your Homework

This DO ensures that you'll engage at the party with more confidence, and are more likely to impress than embarrass yourself. Fisher encourages doing some browsing on LinkedIn before the party to "brush up on your knowledge of your company's leaders and executives." The last thing you want, drink in hand, is to fumble with your superior's name or mistake one of the leaders in the company for a guest. Their profiles will give you more insight into who they are, and can also provide great icebreakers. Maybe you crossed paths at a previous company, have contacts in common, or share the same alma mater.

7. DO Keep The Conversation Positive And Upbeat

While it is a work party, keep away from conversation topics surrounding work. Fisher warns to "steer clear of deadlines and projects" and instead take this as an opportunity to "get to know your colleagues personally." If small talk isn't your forte, Fisher suggests having questions in mind prior to the party, possibly even using recent LinkedIn activity to inform potential topics.

8. DON'T Blow Off Steam

It should go without saying, but your holiday office party is not the place to vent about work. Just as you shouldn't be discussing many work-related topics during your conversations, you definitely shouldn't make any remarks badmouthing your company, boss, or co-workers. Even negative remarks said jokingly can be perceived the wrong way, and get back to people outside the immediate conversation.

9. DO Keep A Hand Free To Offer Handshakes Throughout The Night

Just because your work party comes with an open bar and a buffet spread doesn't mean you have to stock up on both at the same time. Avoid awkward introductions by making sure you always have a hand free for handshakes. The last thing you want during an important introduction is wasting time stabilizing the crudités on your paper plate while biting onto the rim of your plastic cup. If holding onto a cold drink, hold it in your left hand, so when your CEO comes in for a handshake you aren't affronting her with your clammy palm.

10. DON'T Overindulge

This seems like a no-brainer but is a mistake too often made. Keep your alcohol intake in check before you find yourself slurring or grasping onto colleagues to find balance. Decide on how much you're drinking before the night begins, and pace yourself with water and snacks. Do not be the one who got too drunk at the holiday party that everyone will continue sharing stories about into 2016.

11. DO Participate

If your holiday office party offers dancing (lucky you) or karaoke (good luck), definitely participate to the extent you feel comfortable. Though you might be more self-conscious than usual, giving that your company's execs are among the onlookers, if dancing and singing are things you enjoy, go ahead and enjoy yourself. "Just don't overdo it," again, harkening back to the last DON'T.

12. DON'T Leave Too Early

If you weren't able to clear your schedule for the full night of festivities, make sure you exit at a polite and appropriate time. If it's a dinner party, don't even think about leaving until after dessert. If it's more of a cocktail party or less structured get-together, find out if there will be any speeches or a celebratory toast. Make sure not to duck out until after these are done.

13. DO Share Your Experience

While it's usually a good idea to keep office life and social life separate, it's OK to share photos from your office party on social media. Just make sure the photo is appropriate, meaning it represents the company in a good light and "your CEO would be proud" to see it. Also make sure any and all social media engagement occurs after the party. You don't want to be preoccupied with your phone while in the company of your colleagues. When you're at the party, focus on them and having a great time.

Looking for more holiday cheer? Check out Bustle on YouTube.

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Images: AMC; Giphy (8)

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