The Six Biggest Mistakes Employees Make at the Company Holiday Party

drunk office workerIt’s that time of year when businesses host their annual holiday party. The corporate event can be a wonderful time to make and strengthen connections, or leave you disgraced and possibly fired for your lack of good judgment. Avoid these six pitfalls to steer clear of the latter.   

Dressing Inappropriately

Follow the attire description on the invitation. With few exceptions, the company holiday party is a festive event and one that calls for festive attire, not jeans and a t-shirt. A little, but not too little, black dress for women and a dark suit for men are always appropriate. Women, be careful not to show too much skin. Don’t leave people questioning your professionalism.

Over Indulging

While the drinks may be free, this is no time to let loose. Either pass on the alcohol or limit yourself to no more than two drinks. Uninhibited you never know what might come out of your mouth and you don’t want to find out the next day through the gossip grapevine or by receiving a pink slip in the boss’s office.

Excessive Eating

The pork balls or chicken wings may be the best ever, but avoid eating as if it’s your last meal. Unless the event features a full dinner don’t expect to make a meal of the hors d’oeuvres. It’s best to eat something before you arrive. You don’t want to look like a pig, nor have a greasy hand and mouthful of canapés when Ms. SVP approaches.

Coming Late and Leaving Early

Maybe spending several hours with your coworkers dancing to old 80’s tunes isn’t your idea of a good time, but attending the corporate holiday party is pretty much a requirement. Arrive within 30 minutes of it starting and stay at least two hours. Senior managers should be there the majority of the time as they are the hosts of the event.

Not Mingling

Avoid talking to only the people in your workgroup or who you know best. Make an effort to mingle and talk to other people, including upper managers. You have the opportunity to make a good impression by conversing with senior level employees. But, don’t dominate their time by going on and on about your latest project or your kid’s little league average. Limit conversations to five minutes and be sure to thank the hosts for the event. 

Discussing Taboo Topics

There are a few topics you should never discuss in a business setting, especially one where alcohol is involved, which will only add to the heatedness of a topic. Stay away from politics, religion, sex, health problems, money problems or tasteless jokes that are hurtful or mean spirited. Even if you’re sure someone shares your views you never know who can hear you. Just don’t go there. Also avoid gossip or complaining. You’re there to celebrate the holidays. Don’t be a downer and don’t leave your conversation partners wondering what you’re saying about them behind their back. 

Corporate holiday parties can be career minefields. Avoid these six major blunders and be professional and courteous. You’ll be remembered for your great manners and will stay in the good graces of your boss and coworkers.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Patrick Clise on December 3, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Very good advice. I would add to check your breath, nothing worse than being cornered by the garlic loving close talker.

  2. DBSR on December 3, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    LOL This is an excellent story. #7 should be no Excessive Drinking. I’m no longer in the corporate world, but I certainly do recall the days of people getting loose in ways I clearly choose to forget! 🙂

    Not sure how many Holiday parties will take place this year due to the recession, but I wish all those attending one could see this post!

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