Good fun this morning chatting on Newstalk FM about the dos and don’ts of the Office Xmas Party – for many people, a dreaded event.

From what we hear anecdotally, only a small proportion of people truly enjoy the office night out. For many, it is a fear-inducing event that can be made easier only by the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. My very boring, stuffed-shirt opinion on this is that your Christmas party is first, last and always, a work event. (Office party? Operative word – office)

There are 364 other nights a year when you can go out and be yourself; for the office party it’s better to go unnoticed than to be the centre of (unwanted) attention. In vino veritas – in wine, there is truth; so if you have any underlying issues that you would rather not have aired in public, it might be better to say that you have to drive and stick to orange juice.

Maintain your professional demeanour as inappropriate behaviour in this setting will resonate for a looooong time. End-of-year bonuses may have been distributed or promotions handed down before the event. Whether you have had a good year or a bad year, this can be an emotional time but try and keep your emotions to yourself. This is one night when you really need to keep your cool and don’t start jockeying for position either. If you are thinking of using this as an opportunity to suck up, beware; it will be noticed, and not favourably. Unless your boss wants to get into a heavy discussion of next year’s strategic plan, it’s not really a time to talk shop.

  • Time your arrival and your departure – don’t arrive too early at the ice-breaking stage and judge your departure too.
  • Have something to eat before you leave home, so you’re not starving during the early stages of the evening.
  • If your partner / spouse is invited, tactfully lay down the law – no heavy drinking, no abuse shouted at anyone, no erotic dancing …
  • Be prepared to perform a party piece, if that is the norm (e.g. Karaoke can be mandatory if you work for some asian companies).
  • Be courteous and professional, without being obviously stiff. Make sure you thank the organisers and people-who-are-paying-for-the-damned-thing before you leave.
  • Don’t show favoritism to any particular colleague or subordinate. Be careful of ‘cliquish’ behaviour as well.

Weird as it may seem and no matter how much the organisers may protest to the contrary, you are not there to have a good time. The old piece of advice that I used to heed in my corporate travelling days was: Don’t do or say anything that you wouldn’t want to see in the newspaper the next day. This may all sound very boring, but work is work and play is play – no matter how ‘relaxed’ the party may seem …