How Hard Should I Party at the Office Holiday Shindig?

Ask Brad: Our Career Counselor Says 'Don't Be That Guy'

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There are a few things you should know before embarking on the office-holiday-party season: 1. "Open bar" does not mean "all you can physically drink and still stand (or not)." 2. Never slow dance to the song "Shout" with a co-worker half your age. 3. While it may seem cool at the time, come Monday morning no one will be impressed with your ability to defeat the entire mailroom staff in shirtless arm wrestling. 4. Keep the "office" in "office holiday party."
Brad Karsh
Brad Karsh is president of JB Training Solutions, a corporate training company. He spent 15 years at Leo Burnett in Chicago.


Yes, that last point is one that many, many people forget come December. Remember those Bacardi ads with the headline "Accountant by Day, Bacardi by Night"? The visual showed the wilder side of a mild-mannered office employee. For some reason, many employees in our field take on a new mantra come fruitcake time: "Account Executive by Day, Low-Grade Moron at the Holiday Party." Don't be that person.

Of course, it's OK to have a few drinks and even let loose during the annual bash. And while the office party is, indeed, a chance to build personal connections with your boss and colleagues, you don't need to walk up to the CEO and chat about the latest CPM adjustments in the first-quarter scatter market. Just remember the fine line between having fun and being stupid. You do have a reputation to protect.

Here, then, are a few rules to party by:

1. ALCOHOL CAN BE BOTH DELICIOUS AND FUN, BUT IT CAN ALSO BE YOUR MORTAL ENEMY.

It's OK to imbibe. Depending on your tolerance, it's even all right to have a few drinks. But beware of going overboard. No one wants to wipe your vomit off the CMO's new sport coat.

2. WHAT HAPPENS AT THE OFFICE PARTY DOES NOT STAY AT THE OFFICE PARTY.

What may seem perfectly appropriate at the time may end up as a disaster come Monday. You don't want to be known as the guy who swung from the rafters trying to emulate a chandelier. It's doubtful the office management will be saying at an HR meeting two months hence, "Hey, let's promote chandelier boy to account supervisor -- he definitely has the maturity and judgment to take us to the next level."

3. THERE'S THIS THING CALLED SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

I can vividly recall the sordid picture of 50-something married male executives draped over our newest 23-year-old female employees, slow-dancing to a song that was never meant for slow dancing. Those 50-something executives weren't with the company much longer.

Remember that reputation thing we talked about before? Don't destroy it, and don't risk offending other people at the company.

4. DON'T FEEL THE NEED TO PARTAKE IN THE DEBAUCHERY.

You've had a drink or two and decided to stop. But your boss and coworkers are still going strong, and you are being branded a puritan. Will you lose credibility by not partaking? Probably not, but if you're worried, you can always pull the "vodka-tonic" trick and carry a 7-Up in a cocktail glass with a lime and stirrer. (Just don't overdo it, lest you be mistakenly branded a lush.)

All of this is not to say that holiday parties shouldn't be a lot of fun. Just stay in control.
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