Your First Office Holiday Party: A Survival Guide

Your First Office Holiday Party: A Survival Guide

The infamous office holiday party is here. You’ve learned about exaggerated versions of it via movies and TV, and now it’s your turn to experience it first-hand. Be sure to attend, as skipping out sends the wrong message to the powers that be. Keep in mind that your organization planned this event to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and to thank the employees. As a team rookie, all eyes may be on you. Read up on the following tips to impress your colleagues and have them talking about you the next day – for the right reasons.

  • Dress to Impress The Holiday Party is one of your few chances to see colleagues outside of the office. Dress up–but do so the right way. The dress code will be printed on the invitation, HR can share wardrobe tips, and so can a trusted colleague. The holiday event, in whatever form it takes, is an extension of the work day, so it’s all business. Choose modest attire that maintains the professional reputation you’ve built. Avoid short skirts, tight clothes, or inappropriate ugly christmas sweaters.
  • Curb your Consumption Too much enthusiasm for the open bar may cost you your job. Having a drink is perfectly fine, but your first office holiday event is the last place you want to overimbibe. Even if colleagues hit the bar for seconds or thirds, refrain, and drink sparkling water instead. Eat protein before the party so that you’re not hovering over the buffet table all night or drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Network, Network, Network This is your chance to converse with senior leaders of the organization with whom you may not typically get much face time. Avoid clinging to your cubby buddy. Instead, meet customers, and new faces from other departments. If you work for a large organization and don’t often see the CEO, introduce yourself, state the department you work in, and shake their hand (keep your beverage in your left hand so your right is dry, and free to shake). These interactions might open doors for future growth opportunities. Thank the hosts, party planners, and your superiors when departing. Avoid gossipping or talking shop (this is a party, after all!). Skip controversial conversation topics (religion, politics, sex) and keep the mood positive and light. Travel, pets, movies, and books are conversation starters.
  • Watch the Clock Be sure to arrive and leave at appropriate times. Arriving too late shows a lack of appreciation, and overstaying is inconsiderate to the hosts. Arrive within 15-20 minutes of start time, and leave 30 minutes before the end time.

The Office Holiday Party is a time for cheer, so enjoy yourself! Remember that the holiday event, whether a luncheon, open house, or dinner is still a work event. Be pleasant, be social, and be inclusive. When offering holiday blessings, remember that not everyone celebrates the same holiday. Keep these tips in mind and happy holidays!


Sharon Schweitzer and Emilie Lostracco co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide (3rd printing), was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Emilie Lostracco is a Fall 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication Intern with Access to Culture. The Montreal native is currently a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, studying International Relations and Global Studies. Emilie specializes in international environmental efforts, European studies, and French. She plans on graduating with honors in December. Connect with her via Linkedin.

Photo credit: Marcel B. on Flickr

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