Much like cauliflower ice cream — yes, it’s a real thing — the words “work” and “party” shouldn’t go together, but unfortunately do, especially around the holidays. Office holiday parties are a recipe for disaster: You have to spend at least two hours in an unfamiliar, often badly lit venue marinating in the collective awkwardness of your coworkers. It’s easy, even probable, that you will say something that hurts your career, and you always miss by a medium-to-significant margin the outfit vibe everyone else apparently agreed upon without you. Plus, alcohol. It’s a wonder anybody makes it out with a job.
Still, every December, the guac comes out and the disco ball lights up once again.
This year, will Betsy from HR demand the DJ play Lizzo on repeat while she grinds on a garbage can with a mozzarella stick hanging out of her mouth? It’s likely. It’s also very unnerving. Even more unnerving is who you might — actually, you know yourself — tend to become at this festive event. Here are the seven types of people you could very well be at the office holiday party, if the schnapps and anxiety align:
Why are you nervous? There are many possibilities: It’s your first work holiday party in a new job, and you’re unsure of the vibe and don’t know anyone; you feel existentially uncomfortable about being in a rented-out dance club at 4:30 p.m. on a Tuesday (fair); you forgot the work party was today and didn’t shower, brush your hair, or change your underwear; you suddenly realize you don’t know the names of half your coworkers; or, the worst, your work crush, Dan, is standing right over there. In any case, you suddenly find yourself three drinks past your limit, holding onto an intern for support.
You will know you have become The Nervous Drinker if you hear yourself say:
“Red wine doesn’t stain!”
“I just realized there’s no difference between a work party and a party party! Giddyup!”
“Hey Dan The Man: Do you Excel at more than spreadsheets? Get it?Where are you going?!”
Sometimes your holiday party anxiety will lead you to become a Type A nightmare person. You get to the party and suddenly remember you have sooooo much work to do, and it’s absolutely urgent even though it’s due in February. You complain about not being able to get a spreadsheet to orient correctly on your phone, and furiously respond to emails while everyone else wastes time making conversation.
You'll know you’re The Work Monster if you say:
“Real problems don’t take holidays.”
“I’ve just got so much on my plate!”
“What’s new with you? Hold that thought, this is urgent. Let’s circle back in 10.”
You barely have an Instagram, or you do, but it’s really your dog’s. You once posted a photo of yourself and deleted it immediately in mortification. But after two glasses of wine, today feels different. You’re fretting no more! How have you stifled your inner social media prowess all these years? Can these people at the buffet move so you can find your light? Yes, you are in an Italian restaurant where no one would go in real life, and the photo backdrop reads, “Happy Holidays from Our Company to Yours!,” but you are making these Santa hats count.
Alternately, instead of taking pictures, you show them. To everyone. By the end of the party 37 people have seen that pic of your dog sleeping on a chair. For the moment, your coworkers are also following your account specifically dedicated to your childhood yearbook photos, because you close-talked them until they complied.
You know you’re The Influencer if you say:
“Yaaaaaaaasssss! Wait, no. Take it again.”
“This is my parents’ house from the back.”
“Neat, they have ping pong!” your desk mate Stephanie exclaims, innocently enough, as she enters the holiday soiree. Your eyes get wide. Your heart starts racing. Your inner demon is about to emerge. In less than 20 minutes, you’re sweating through your Zara pantsuit, flinging your body across the crowded room to dive for a ball. Once you beat Stephanie 21-0, you move on to crushing Chase and Jordan single-handedly. The last thing you remember is standing atop the ping pong table screaming, “I’ll take on all of you at once! Where’s the CEO?”
You know you’re The Winner if you say:
“In your face, Stephanie!!!”
“What, are you scared?”
You do not enter this mode because you are the drunkest person, as logic might dictate. No. You have been on cruise control all night — maintaining a strategic buzz — because you’re on a mission to make this party last forever. Why are you obsessed with the after-party? Could be that you live in the suburbs and don’t get out much. Could be you have a secret crush on a coworker. Could be you saw an episode of The Office where everyone high-fived Jim and wanted that moment for yourself. Whatever the motive, you will remind everyone no fewer than three times where and when this “after-party” takes place. Note: This after-party is not company sanctioned. Nothing has been rented out. It’s at an Irish pub close to the train.
You know you’re The After-Party Animal if you say:
“What else do you have to do tonight?”
“Drink a lot of water. It’s going to be a long night.”
“This is cool, but the real party goes down later.”
A dark cloud descends around you as you enter this so-called “party.” The lighting is terrible, the music is pathetic, the hot food is cold, and the cold food is hot. This is the worst social gathering you’ve ever been to, and you’re suddenly compelled to tell everyone exactly how you feel. Hey, at least it’s something to do.
You know you’re The Grinch if you say:
“These drinks suck. Somebody get me another one.”
“I can’t believe you're actually enjoying this.”
“They should have taken the money they spent on this party and given it to us in bonuses.”
What is a work party if not an opportunity to schmooze with the big dogs? If the phrase “schmooze with the big dogs” didn’t make you cringe, you might be this person. You have a very specific set of people you plan to talk to, and a very calculated way of doing it. You will always have a drink in hand, but barely drink it. You will not put anything in your mouth that could get stuck in your teeth. You will stay long, but not too long. You will smile, make eye contact, and insert your boss’ boss’ kids’ names in only tangentially related conversation. While some people might not use this occasion to their advantage, your career coach taught you how to recognize an AIM (Advancement Interface MomentTM) when you see it.
You know you’re The Climber if you say:
“I read an article you wrote seven years ago on management styles and it truly blew my mind!”
“If you ever need a babysitter, let me know!”
“This is the best party ever.”
Illustrations: Margaret Flatley