Tis the season to celebrate the most beloved of blue moon occurrences. The holiday office party, often referred to as the “in lieu of a bonus” party or the “what raise?” party looms across the office like the thread of layoffs—only with a big shiny bow around it. It’s a time for reverie, a time for a well-needed break, a time to see what your co-workers look like in less clothes or more alcohol (than usual).
In order to enjoy yourself during the annual (or as annual as can be afforded) basking in the glorious cornucopia of corporate bliss, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. First and foremost, the materialistic adage used to lure unsuspecting future divorcées to Vegas is not true of the typical holiday office party. The “What happens here stays here” shtick doesn’t fly when the only thing separating you from your boss is a weekend hangover. You’d be surprised to know that your boss will remember more of what he observed across four Harvey Wallbangers and an Irish Car Bomb than what he observed across his desk when you were laying out your best “I need a raise” fifteen-cents-a-day-to-feed-a-starving-child sadface.
Tip Number One: Shut Up.
Oh, I’m not suggesting that you’ll be fired because you danced on a chair with a strand of garland around your neck, but the memory of your office party “loosened proprieties” will be locked away in that one file that runs deeper and further back than anything kept in the dusty corners of your local H.R. office: the boss’s brain. You’ll find yourself picking up extra clients, or less opportunities, because the boss will imagine you delivering that all-important pitch with a light-up reindeer nose.
And let’s not forget your co-workers. As we go through life, we’re blessed with three categories of friendships: the friends you grow up with, the friends that escort, push, shove, trick or kick you through your formative Right-of-Passage Years, and your work friends. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known your buddies or your girlfriends, the fact is that you probably see your co-workers more than your own family or the friends you’ve known for years. Sure, you may have the wherewithal to separate home and work, but the more comfortable you get with your “work friends,” the more likely you are to let a deep secret or feeling (God forbid you should have feelings!) slip. If you confide in a co-worker that your wife is a nag because she won’t let you watch the game on Sunday, or that your husband is useless because he won’t carry his share of the chores on the home front, you may “accidentally” confide in a lot more once you get to the office party and throw down too many free Zimas or White Zins. This is especially true if it’s one of those Employees-Only-Because-We’re-Too-Cheap-To-Afford-An-Open-Bar-For-Your-Spouse/Significant-Other/Rent-A-Date parties.
Tip Number Two: Your Co-Workers Are Functioning Alcoholics.
If you allow yourself to get too loose around the bar, you’re likely to let any number of fanciful notions come to light thinking you’re in a “safe zone.” Look, even if your buddy/pal/chum/dude-in-the-next-cubicle is in the same bleary-eyed condition you are, you always run the risk that you’re talking to someone who maintains a hidden avenue of clarity between their ears, one that will open up on Monday when they need a favor—or simply want to cast aside your wonderful life-long “friendship” for a chance to use your face as a rung on the corporate ladder.
Tip Number Three: Why Are You STILL Talking About Work?
Of course you can avoid any number of dangerous interludes by steering clear of certain topics. Money, sex, religion and home life should all be avoided. Likewise, topics that you think are safe: Work Policies I Actually Enjoy, that client you think is funny, and anything else that you’d cover during a normal mundane Monday should be avoided lest you be shunned as a Corporate Lackey, Wet Blanket or Brown Nose. Nobody wants to hear about work at a work party.
Tip Number Four: Let Your Spouse Lead.
If your holiday office party happens to include spouses (or hookers), let your guest be the barometer of how much P you put in “Party.” Defcon 1: They remain at the table alone, checking the time frequently, basically slotting easily into that “Designated Driver” role for you. Great! If, that is, you’re always nearby. Start dancing on tables or irritating the bartenders and you’ll have as much heat at home that night as you will at work on Monday. Defcon 3: Your Plus One is talkative, seems to like your office friends, and asks you questions about your work life. GET OUT NOW! You’re about to star in your own sit-com. You know: the one where your husband starts playing golf with that guy you “innocently flirted with” in the lunch room that day. You know it wasn’t going to go anywhere, but when Garry with two Rs tells Scot with one T about how funny you were when you noticed his hands were full and offered to dig in his pockets for change, it’s about to get real. Defcon 5: If your spouse slips easily into multiple “Futurized Friendships” with your work buddies (or, OMG, the boss!), starts downing pink squirrels or grasshoppers (those are drinks) at the rate of one per song, and if your Work Pals mention more than once: “Dude, your wife is hysterical/awesome/a riot/terrific/hot/sexy/delicious,” (granted the last three possibilities open a 26 oz. can marked JUMBO WORMS IN HEAVY SYRUP), it’s time to get out before…
Tip Number Five: Polish Your Resume. Your Spouse Just Got Hired