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The Holiday Office Party: 3 Sticky Questions to Ask Before You Go

All ready for the holiday party: Ugly sweater? Check. Christmas tree tie with flashing lights? Check. Inappropriate behavior? Check. Wait. What?

All one needs to do is watch an episode of MADMEN to learn how what we once thought was acceptable business practice is now at best horrifying, and at worst punishable by law. The business world has gotten wiser, more evolved, more sensitive but some believe the political correctness has it gone too far. Legal and its liabilities removed the libations. HR re-dubbed Christmas into Holiday. And the CFO changed the venue from cocktails at The Ritz to cocktail franks and Ritz crackers. It's often been my job to plan them, and I think most of the changes have been good for the Holiday Party (that is, if you're still lucky enough to have one).
Ho, Ho, Hold on there a minute. Just because the Holiday Party is not what it used to be, people still need to check themselves before they wreck themselves. In 2014, inappropriate behavior hasn't left the party, it just changed it's pinstrip suit. Some view it as "Business Halloween": show up in whatever crazy outfit you like and wreak Holiday havoc. But it is still a place of business even if the office party takes place in the swankiest of night clubs. Situations can get sticky faster than a speeding reindeer, and the wrong moves can quickly kill your career. So ask yourself these three questions before you go to the Holiday Party:
  1. Do I really want another drink? The answer is no. If you answered yes, then keep asking yourself until you say no. As I said earlier, many companies have eliminated alcohol so as not to be liable because people tend to go dangerously overboard particularly when the boss is picking up the check. But a Jingle Buzz is really not worth it. No one ever said, "Hey did you see how hammered Jim got at the party? We've got to give that guy a promotion!"

    And if you've been waiting for this opportunity to get to know that cute co-worker, then suggest you meet for a beer another time when the boss and the whole company isn't around watching you dance on the table.
  2. Should I bring my spouse or date? Well certainly don't bring both. Kidding. Not really. I remember one Christmas party where a co-worker decided not to bring her husband like last year and instead got cozy with the new consultant. Instantly, we all became horrified witnesses and unwitting accomplices in what turned out to be her sordid affair.

    So I say bring your spouse or life partner (if they too can abide by Rule 1.) But leave the date or friend at home. Like a high school reunion, just because you're allowed to bring a guest doesn't mean you should. Because when there's nothing at stake, people tend to take advantage of it. And you take the blame.
  3. Should I talk shop? No. Nothing is more annoying than discussing work when not at work. Besides it shows poor teamwork. Yes teamwork. The holiday party is as much a way of showing you can socialize and get along with co-workers as it is a celebration.
I've worked for huge companies and small, and I've attended some extremely costly Christmas parties that didn't live up to the hype, and some small get-togethers where members of each department huddled up in groups just to gripe. In both types, employees left with less Holiday Spirit than they walked in with and that's just not the idea.
My favorite Holiday parties have been employee-only luncheons that ended with a shortened work day. Then some of us went shopping, some went to the town center to see the lights and tree. I've learned that a Holiday Party is simply a corporate function with red bows and garland. Be social, responsible, and appreciative for any holiday gesture given your way. Because the only true holiday party is at home with family and friends.

Follow Frank Bocchino, is a Los Angeles-based writer, designer, and digital marketer who helps   organizations create qualified strategies that generate new business using the latest tools for lead generation, SEO, and social media.

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