Career Advice

How to Survive the Office Christmas Party

Lisa Johnson Posted by Lisa
min read

Have you ever woken up the day after the work Christmas party with this feeling of dread and with that realisation that you can't actually remember everything you did and said? Well, to avoid humiliation and the odds of photos of you lying in a gutter turning up on Facebook, I bring you the beginner's guide to surviving the office Christmas party.

The dress code

For those of us who don't get to live through the excitement of dressing up for Melbourne Cup (damn you, Melbournians, damn you), the office Christmas party is the best opportunity for the office women to strut their stuff.  Talk around the water cooler will focus on diets, ridiculous exercise plans and the pros and cons of spray tans weeks before the big day, all with the aim of rocking a simply divine dress for the work party. Here are a few tips for new players: don't show too much of anything.  If it's so short someone can see your knickers, you are going to lose credibility with your peers.  

If it's so low that people can see your Hollywood tape, then you are not only going to lose credibility; you are going to attract that odd little man from IT who will spend all evening hovering around with his eyes clearly on your assets. For you blokes, be tidy and clean.  If it looks like you picked that T-shirt up off your bedroom floor and you probably just had a quick sniff to see if it was okay, then it's, well, not okay.  Beer goggles can only do so much; after a while, we might not be so discerning in what you are looking like, but we can still smell you.

Just add alcohol

Maybe it's because the boss is paying, but, for some reason, many workers seem to think a bar tab means: go hard, go fast and then go home.  I have been there.  Honestly. I am legendary with my company for not actually making it to the trivia stage of a work trivia night and being put in a cab with an extra $50 for cleaning if I vomited.  Believe me, you never live it down. 

Make sure that if you are drinking, you eat.  Be responsible for your own actions and, remember, getting absolutely smashed rarely ends well... Particularly in a work environment, because, for some reason, you will think it's really, really funny to tell someone what you actually think of them, and tomorrow you will find out that it was, in fact, really, really stupid.

Don’t tell the boss how to do his job

I have done this one too, actually.  Not with my current company, but years ago, I was a little tipsy before I got to the work party, and then I thought it was high time I tell the CEO what he was doing wrong with running the company.  The next day, he sent me a card telling that it would be a good idea if I didn't drink at work functions going forward.  Oops. Now, he was very forgiving (I like to think it's because I was right about whatever garbage I was telling him), but most managers are probably going to start a conversation with HR. Be smart – fly under the radar with the boss at the party.

Sexual harassment

The office Christmas party is HR's worst case scenario.  You have a bunch of people who don't really know each other that well in party frocks and high spirits, chucking back a few too many champers and beers, and, before you know it, someone is talking sexual harassment. To claim sexual harassment, a person just has to claim that you made them feel uncomfortable in a sexual way. You don't have to intend to make them feel that way; they just have to actually feel it. And harassment does not have to include touching – often it will be the words you use in combination with the way you look at someone, and  – bingo – things are going to end in tears. And it's all enhanced by the magic alcohol factor. So try to keep a clear head: do not ogle boobs, bums or manly bits, do not make any suggestive comments (even in jest) and try not to drool when the  girl from sales walks past with the sun glowing on her bare shoulders. Remember, ladies, sexual harassment works both ways – if you are making suggestive comments to the young bloke from marketing and he doesn't like it, he is just as able to report you as the other way around.

Social media

I have said it before: when you have had a few drinks too many, social media is not your friend.  I'm not talking about the terrific idea you had when you were three sheets to the wind to stalk your ex on his Facebook page while sitting in the loo at the pub and holding up at least three hundred desperate to pee patrons.  I am talking about the likelihood of pictures of you making a complete idiot of yourself ending up on your colleagues' Facebook pages and, before you know it, in front of the boss. 

Do not tweet while drunk.  I thought that Kanye West was doing this a lot but then realised that he's like that sober (go figure).  Especially do not tweet using a work Twitter account. Do not load photos of your workmates to anything online without their permission.  And if they are too drunk to reasonably give their permission, then it's not a good idea to post their photo, full stop. Remember, once it's on the internet, it's out of your control, and a photo of someone making an absolute idiot of themselves can seriously damage their – or even your – career.  

Leave your phone in your pocket or purse so you are not tempted. Just so you know that I am legit on this one, in our work Christmas video from 2012, I have a huge sign that says, 'Please don't let me drink and text.'  They failed to stop me.  Just as well, the new man in my life was very forgiving of receiving a number of gibberish texts (turns out, we girls bring out the 'L' word waaaayyyy too soon if we are drinking & texting).

Call it a night before it gets messy

Here is an idea: plan on meeting up with some friends on the same night of the party – this gives you an excuse to bail on the party before you are filmed doing karaoke in a bar somewhere in Kings Cross.  While drunk, you might think you sound just like Celine Dion, but take it from me: we didn't really love her singing 'My Heart Will Go On’, and your version will ruin people's lives. If you leave your Christmas party early, the chances are you are going to get out before making a prat of yourself and avoid a whole world of grief when you come back to work. The idea is that your work Christmas party should be FUN; please don't let it be an excuse for the HR department to start going draconian on everybody.  

So – dress nicely, don't drink too much, make sure you eat, don't try and get it on with your colleagues, don't harangue the boss and don’t use social media while under the influence of cheap champagne! Now, if I can only take my own advice this year…