Keeping Your Holiday Party Professional

Published: Nov 20, 2018

 Networking       Workplace Issues       
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‘Tis the season to be jolly—or is it? According to consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the number of planned holiday parties have reached decade lows. Approximately 65 percent of companies reported that they will be holding a holiday party this year, compared to last year’s 73 percent. There haven’t been this few parties in the works since the recession nearly ten years ago, and this time, it’s not due to the economy. In fact, many believe that companies are skipping the merry-making in response to #metoo, in order to avoid potentially unprofessional conduct and situations. This development seems to be part of a larger trend in offering fewer employer events with alcohol. For example, some law firms have begun to reduce the number of alcohol-centered events during their summer associate programs.

All that said, plenty of companies are still throwing their yearly to-do, cocktails and all. Here are a few tips to keep your holiday party on the up-and-up.

Keep the drinking to a minimum

I’m not saying don’t drink, but it’s important to know your limits when it comes to professional gatherings. You can enjoy that glass of wine or cocktail—just know when to call it quits. Also, don’t go in on an empty stomach—enjoy the tasty spread your office has surely provided! I know we all work hard, and now we can finally let our hair down a little. But the more folks drink, the more mistakes they tend to make—and you still have to go into work with these people on Monday.

No mistletoe

Seriously. Not one sprig of the stuff. It may seem cutesy to some people, but being the person carrying around mistletoe and asking for kisses is tantamount to sexual harassment, regardless of the fact that it’s Christmas-themed. I had a boss who used to hang mistletoe over the door to the back office all holiday season, and it’s one of my most uncomfortable workplace experiences. It’s not funny, it’s not charming, it’s just gross and, in my opinion, a holiday tradition that should be done away with tout suite.

Be mindful your conversation points

An office party is a great chance to get to know your colleagues outside the office and have real conversations about their interests and hobbies. Just make sure that you’re not getting too personal. My dad taught me never to talk about politics or money in mixed company, but you should add to that list sex, relationships, race, religion, and gender and sexuality. There’s plenty you can talk to your coworkers about without impinging on things that are not your business. A good rule of thumb: if you’d be offended if a stranger asked you about something, don’t ask your coworkers about it, regardless of how well you seem to get along.

Watch what you put on your feed

I don’t think any of us need to be reminded of the dangers of thoughtless tweeting (or Instagram posts, or Snaps, or Facebook comments). But this kind of event can blur the lines where social media is concerned. We post about our social activities, and a holiday party is technically something social. But it’s also still a work event, and you should be as mindful posting about the holiday party as you are posting about a regular workday. A selfie with your coffee buddy in your ugly Christmas sweaters would make a great addition to your Insta feed, but there are plenty of photos and comments you could post that you know you shouldn’t, regardless of how funny they might seem in the moment.

There’s a certain fear in work situations that #metoo has sparked. Women are often being excluded from certain opportunities because men are afraid of being next on the ever-growing list of the accused. It’s a sad situation that certain people would rather not connect with their colleagues at all in response to a change in workplace culture that is undoubtedly for the better. But there’s no reason to be afraid of getting to know your coworkers better at a holiday party or any other social event so long as you maintain a professional, respectful attitude towards everyone. Have fun, be smart, and don’t forget your white elephant gift.