THE BLOG
11/26/2013 10:15 am ET Updated Jan 26, 2014

4 Tips for Managing the Office Holiday Party

Oppenheim Bernhard via Getty Images

Since Thanksgiving is late this year, the office holiday party is right around the corner. Once thought long gone for dead, the office holiday party is staging a comeback. Although over the top decorations and glitter are usually a thing of the past, the potential ramifications of this holiday "party" has not diminished over the years. As a matter of fact, I've heard many stories of one's upward mobility crashing down due to irresponsible behavior(s) at this event. Following are some tips I share with my clients for utilizing the holiday office party to their advantage.

1. First and foremost remember that the office holiday party is not really a party at all -- it is a work function. Don't be seduced into thinking you are out with your peeps because everyone is outside the office all dressed up, the wine is flowing and the food is scrumptious. The people present are still your colleagues, subordinates and supervisors. This fact doesn't change after the seventh drink; so don't be lured into a false sense of camaraderie with everyone. In addition, if you would never dream of saying something off color or inappropriate to someone (or about someone) while at work, keep it to yourself at the office holiday party as well.

2. Don't even think of blowing the party off since it really isn't a party in the true sense of the word. It's more like a glorified work meeting, which is mandatory, more or less. Not showing up to this event could be tantamount to career suicide no matter how "optional" you believe -- or are told -- this function is. The last thing you want to do is give the perception that you are not a team player because you didn't show up. Therefore no matter how much you really don't want to go to the party take one for the team and attend. And once you are there, it's not good enough to just show up; make sure (in a subtle, very politically correct way) that all the key players know you are there. (Then sneak out early from the side door if you must).

3. Dress appropriately. Now is not the time to come slinking in with a low-cut, way too high skirt or with ripped jeans and a dirty sweat shirt with your favorite brand of beer written across the front. Find out how formal the party will be, and dress accordingly. Usually the venue dictates the dress code, and if you are at all in doubt, ask someone who will know. Every office has that "someone" who will surely know.

4. All behavior in moderation -- with moderation being the operative word of the evening. As I said earlier, this is a work function. In spite of outward appearances, which might suggest otherwise, you are not at this event for the food and/or the drink. Try not to overeat and definitely do not get drunk. Nobody fondly recalls the next day the person who jumped up on the bar and began dancing. You are at a work function -- as an employee -- so take this an opportunity to network. Yes, the office holiday party can be a great way to meet people and bosses whom you would otherwise rarely have access to -- so use it to your advantage. As a general rule, while in conversation with others do not bring up the specific details of your work. If you are asked about your job, keep your answer short and sweet -- less is more! Don't bore others with your achievements or by kissing up -- most people can tell a phony miles away so don't go there. Try to pay people a genuine authentic compliment and take it from there.

Whether you love these parties or not, it will serve you well to attend them and to be on your best behavior. Take them as an opportunity to socialize with people you normally don't get a chance to spend time with, and you might be surprised by how much you enjoy their company outside the constraints of the corporate setting.