We Asked An HR Expert How Many Drinks You Should Have At The Office Holiday Party

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‘Tis the season for work holiday parties and, subsequently, trying to remember the rules for attending your work holiday party. Should you drink as you would at any other event with the word “party” in the title? Should you avoid alcohol entirely? If you’re wondering how many drinks to have at your office holiday party, there are a couple of rules of thumb to follow.

“I’d say a maximum of two!” Ask A Manager’s Alison Green told Bustle via email. “And really, stop at one if you aren't completely confident that you'll remain unaffected by two.” In other words, know thyself. If you know that having hard liquor is going to make you more likely to dance on your open space office’s desks, maybe stick to a glass of wine.

If your work’s holiday party is serving alcohol, it likely isn’t a test to see who can resist the temptation of a pale ale on office property. In a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, 501 Human Resources professionals were asked about work functions in which drinking was acceptable. 70% said that holiday parties are a work-appropriate place to imbibe, which should assuage your fears about letting your boss see you sip on a glass of sangria.

Of course, everything in moderation. “Work parties aren’t a place to get intoxicated,” Green adds. “You want to retain your inhibitions at work events, not loosen them!”

If you’ve managed to make it out of an office holiday party unscathed, consider yourself lucky. A 2018 survey, conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Evite and published by in New York Post, found that one in three people have done something they regret at an office party. The survey results of the 2,000 office workers polled read like the saddest rendition of 12 Days of Christmas: seven pieces of gossip about colleagues they didn’t previously know, an average of six photos posted online.

An informal survey from NPR, conducted in 2015, found similar results. From a pool of 8,400 responses, NPR found that roughly one in four of people got a little too tipsy at their work party and later regretted their behavior. “One of the things alcohol impairs is our ability to recognize our own impairment,” Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, told NPR adding that when over-imbibing “we tend to think that [we’re] more funny, more entertaining than we actually are.” You don’t need to be an expert in the social practices of drinking to know the latter is true.

Again, this isn’t to say you need to avoid alcohol altogether. Schweitzer noted to NPR that the social practice of drinking comes into play in the workplace: “The way we mix our social lives and our work is essential for how we advance in our work,” he said. It’s learning to find the balance of the two that’s key.

Given that 53 percent of people say they’ve shown up late to work the day after the office holiday party because of a hangover, you'll want to take it easy with the employer-provided booze.


Alison Green, professional consultant of Ask A Manager.