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My top tips for behaviour at the office Christmas party
Oct 31, 2014

My top tips for behaviour at the office Christmas party

What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day

Phyllis Diller

Tis the season to be jolly, as the welsh Christmas carol goes.  It is also the season for the office Christmas party, and for those who work in HR, the prospect of an investigation the next working day.  I always had a rule not to have too much to drink at the office party (being in HR and possibly the investigator) and to always leave before it got too out of hand.  The first was fairly easy to do; the second not so much, and I invariably got to be holding someone’s hair back as they were sick, just as I was about to get into a cab, or have to mediate a dispute over a spilled drink, or listen to someone complain about someone else relentlessly.

Let's assume the organisation you work for has appropriate policies and training in place around what is and is not appropriate workplace behaviours.  Here is a good article from BRW about the need for those policies and procedures.

Unfortunately, people sometimes forget these important instructions, usually after the fifth drink.  And the golden rule of course is DO NOT SEXUALLY HARASS ANYONE.  That goes without saying — and if you happen to witness someone being harassed, please don’t just stand by watching someone do this. Step in, step up and take responsibility for making it stop. 

So based on extensive research and personal experience here are my top tips to remember when attending the office Christmas Party (CP):

1.  Decide if you really do want to go.  

This is particularly important if you have:

(a) embarrassed yourself at a previous CP; or

(b) a philosophical objection to partying on a boat, from which you can’t escape, as I do; or

(c) both

In a small office, it might be considered rude not to attend unless you have to attend a wake for great aunt Myrtle.  In a larger organisation you probably won’t be missed, and frankly, with some parties, watching reruns of Friends on Foxtel for the 1000th time might be a better option, particularly if point (a) above is relevant to your decision making.

But generally the office CP is fun and something you don't want to miss out on, at the same time not wanting to end up on a new hit YouTube video.

If (a) applies and you decide to go, please make sure you have a buddy to keep an eye on you and send you on your way if things get out of hand.  Unless of course point (b) above applies — then you are stuck.

2.  Are you a happy drunk or a morose drunk?

If you’re going to drink alcohol, make sure you know ahead of time if you are a happy drunk or a morose drunk.  Seek feedback from your friends if necessary.  If you’re a morose drunk you may not have many friends of course, but in either case it’s a good idea to know beforehand.  Happy drunks are more likely to be tolerated unless any form of harassment is involved.

3.  The digital camera/smartphone camera/photo booth is not your friend

I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am that I grew up in the age where not only a film from a camera had to be taken to the Kodak shop to be processed before you even knew what was on the camera, but there was also no internet to instantly upload photos.  Photos can be fun - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spapchat are easy ways to share photos which also means it is easy for others to see you having SUCH a great time (as you drink your 14th vodka lime and soda, beer or champagne).  Also remember if you upload photos late in the evening it usually means someone is going to be embarrassed, and DON'T, whatever you do, put your firm or organisation name to anything that might cause embarrassment.  Of course, the risk management part of the brain is the first to be affected by alcohol so you may not remember this advice.

Related to this — beware the photo booth.  It’s always funny until there is photographic evidence of misbehaviour.  One minute you're goofing around in the photo booth and the next lips have locked and there is a photo and a marriage break up.

4.  This is not the time for teary confessions/grievances

The CP is  not the time to tell HR Manager about the number of times you called in sick but actually weren’t — that instead you just hate work so much and you  'just couldn’t be ‘f***ed’ coming to work.'  Excellent let’s talk about that on Monday, shall we?  HR Mangers remember all of these conversations, because they are usually sober.

This is also not the time to air grievances about work colleagues or, in fact, the boss.  Especially don’t tell the boss you think he is a c***, that everyone thinks the same and that basically everyone hates him or her.  Even if it is true (although I wouldn’t use that word). This is a true story.

The CP  is not the time for teary confessions of attraction/love or indiscretions. Ever.  Cue Monday morning embarrassment.

5.  Bear witness and step in

If you happen to witness someone being harassed, please don’t just stand by watching someone do this.  Step in, tell them they’re behaving badly, and take the person being set upon away.  Then follow up with them the next day to make them apologise.

6. Rethink your dance moves

Dirty dancing was great in the movie because of Patrick Swayze - not so great when a very drunk person attempts it, especially with someone who doesn't want to participate.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  Oh, and if 'Whip It' by Devo comes on — it is never a good idea to jump on someone's back and pretend to whip that person like a racehorse.  Refer to point 3 above again.

7. Leave at a good time

As Ted from How I Met Your Mother says 'Nothing good ever happens after 2am'.  Cabs are always hard to find late in the evening before Christmas, so leave when you can still get a cab and you’re then not tempted to go back to the party.  Also,  if  someone from HR or your boss politely suggests it is time to go home and puts you in a cab, don’t drive around the block and get out and go back in.  Nothing good ever happens after HR tells you it’s time to go home and you don’t.  Particularly if said HR person has called your mother to let her know you’re on your way home and then the police are called 3 hours later (true story).

8. If there are speeches, please don’t heckle

This applies especially if it is the CEO, or someone else important making the speech.  It is almost certain he or she is sober and will remember the fool with a drink in each hand who heckled during the rousing and inspirational   speech to the team.

9.  Keep your clothes on

This should be obvious, but regrettably is not, particularly after that 14th drink. It might be December and hot, but no-one needs to see your sweaty chest.  And boys, when 'Eagle Rock' starts playing remember this is not a 21st and pants should remain up around your hips with belt buckles firmly fastened, not around your ankles.

10.  Consensual carnal activities are OK

If you and another person decide to have consensual sex about which there will be no complaint, other than from a spouse, that is terrific.  Here, however,  are some of the places you should not do this:

  • on the boardroom table
  • on any table
  • in the fire escape
  • in the archive compactus
  • in the CEO’s office
  • in the sick room
  • on the bonnet of a colleague’s car in the car park
  • anywhere there is a security camera (refer to point 3, above)

Here is where you should do this:

  • in the privacy of a your own home

And remember this:

So there you have it — my all time top tips for having a great but safe time at the office Christmas party.  

Merry Christmas everyone.