The ultimate work Christmas party survival guide
It may be a night of gaeity enforced by the bosses, but it needn't mean career destruction. Our reporter brings you the expert tips for getting through the work do... and maybe even bagging yourself a promotion
For some, the Christmas office party invite is a chance to partake in libations on the company’s tab, for others, it’s a chance to catch up with colleagues (and put a good word or two in with the powers that be). Yet for a wide swathe of people with the ghosts of parties past rattling in their minds, the festive office bash is a minefield fraught with danger.
Some are better than others: according to reports, Google splashed out a rumoured €300,000 on their bash in 2014, and rewarded the work of their employees with an ice rink and Ferris wheel. Yet for many others, a Styrofoam cup of lukewarm Chardonnay and the wandering hands of some chancer in accounts is, alas, as good as it gets.
“We get a lot of business as a result of bad behaviour at Christmas parties,” affirms Terry Prone of The Communications Clinic in Dublin. “Employees are unsure as to precisely how badly they behaved or unsure of the significance of the bad behaviour of others towards them.
“Christmas parties are binary. Either they’re delightful civilised gatherings of people who love working together and like each other, or they’re a warzone with unintended consequences.”
Sounds pretty scary, yet it needn’t be a night where one dices with death (or at the very least, dices with the prospect of getting a P45 in the New Year). It may be a night of gaiety enforced by the bosses, but it needn’t mean career destruction. Here’s our cut-out-and-keep survival guide.
“As tempting as it may be for some, don’t do a non-show at your office party,” says career coach Jane Downes. “For those who may have had a rough year in their career, even more reason to show up.”
Don’t fancy spending another living second with your workmates? Then it’s best to do a drink’n’dash. Do a lap, pressing the flesh of important folks and making sure you’re seen. At the very least, no one can accuse you of not being a team player. A party cameo also means that you’re best placed to show up the next day in relatively bushy-tailed shape. Bonus.
If no one else is bringing their plus ones, leave yours in front of the telly, too. No matter how sound your partner is, you’ll only have to spend the night looking after them and explaining the office politics, all the while hoping they won’t mention the fact that you think your next-desk neighbour is a total dose. You’ve been warned.
Remember the dress code
Crowd-source office opinion on whether it’s a good idea to wear your (very) little black number, or whether jeans and a jumper will just be a shade too ‘zero f***s given’.
“Take it up a notch of course as it’s a special occasion but lay off the nightclub wear,” says Downes. “Remember this is a work do and you have a professional brand, which needs to be maintained even if it is your office Christmas party.”
Also, pay attention to that most unspoken of wardrobe issues: “If you can’t fit into the dress on Thursday it’s highly unlikely you will be able to get into it in 24 hours, so choose another outfit to wear,” advises PR guru and event planner Joanne Byrne.
Eating is not cheating
Famously, the food at some shindigs is left wanting. Either it shows up late, or in criminally small increments. Even if you are lucky enough to work at Google, don’t launch yourself at the free bar without lining your stomach first.
Mind your Christmas spirits
Fine, it’s free (usually). Okay, so the wacky one in IT has decided to create a signature cocktail using wine, Kahlua and cranberry juice (and call it ‘The Derek’). Stick to what you know, or at least stick to what you know won’t have you speaking Welsh down the toilet (you know what this means) in a few hours.
A free bar also steers unwitting guests into more, cough, truthful territory. You may have some Dutch courage on board, but now is most certainly not the time to sock it to the colleague who bothers you with his daily takeover of the canteen microwave, or to tell your line manager that, in a parallel universe, you most certainly would.
“If you need to get in a bottle of wine before coping with the boredom/irritation of the office party, get out of going,” advises Prone. “Everybody who drinks too much at an office party thinks they are the wittiest person alive, surrounded by incredibly charming charismatic delightful and equally witty pals. It ain’t so.”
Let’s face it, the office party is an extension of your working day, so go off-grid at your peril. There are subtle ways of reminding the right people that you are as invaluable to the office as the Nespresso machine. Look after the hopelessly drunk one, offer to be the party DJ, or sort out the taxis at the end of the night.
Avoid the bores
As sure as night follows day, there will always — always — be a reveller who takes the term ‘party’ fairly loosely. Don’t be the person who wants to talk shop all night, even if that’s exactly the conversation you are used to with your colleagues. It’s pretty difficult to register the glazed look in someone’s eyes if you have a few drinks on board, so perhaps dispense with the boring stuff. Gossip, however tempting, is also a no-no.
As for how to avoid getting stuck with said office bore, have a tag-team partner on hand. Both of you can help each other out of a sticky spot. Alternatively, carry two drinks at all times so you can use the second drink as an excuse to get back to someone wayyy over there.
Forget the ‘after party’
At every office bash, the die-hards come to a fork in the road. Head home, or take the high road to the next venue? Come 2am, someone invariably floats the idea of a club, late bar or (yikes) Coppers. It may seem an inspired choice at the time, but one revellers invariably come to regret in the cold light of day.
Random points of note
“Say thank you for the Kris Krindle gift instead of ‘this is sh*te’,” advises Byrne. “If your hair is held in place by hairspray, stay away from the many Christmas candles. Remember that Spanx will take a bit longer to take down when you are in the toilet cubicle.” Consider yourself duly warned.