It’s officially that time of year again – the temperature keeps dropping, snow starts falling and ah, yes, the office holiday party. Whether it is your first time attending as an entry-level employee or you’re a seasoned vet when it comes to these shindigs, they can often times be a slippery slope.

After working hard all year, the holidays are a time to relax and refocus. No matter what holiday you celebrate, it is a time to “eat, drink and be merry.” When it comes to your office holiday party, however, you might want to “eat, drink and be wary (of your reputation).”

Nervous about how you are going to navigate the festivities? Here are some do’s and don’ts to remember when the libations and holiday cheer start flowing:

DO: Dress Appropriately

Is the theme of the party “ugly sweater”? While you may be tempted to go against the gran and not participate in this festive “dress code” (likely due to your impeccable fashion sense), it is a good idea to go with the flow and find a (work-appropriate) ugly sweater that you can store deep in the “never-to-see-the-light-of-day” portion of your closet until next year. After all, the uglier the sweater, the easier it is to start a conversation with someone new in the office.

If the party is more of a casual environment, just dress how you would for work. Unsure of what to wear? Ask some of your colleagues what they plan on wearing and follow suit. While certainly a conversation starter, you don’t want to be the only one wearing a suit to an ugly sweater party or Secret Santa gift exchange.

DON’T: Be a Grinch, Scrooge, etc.

While it is true that some people truly do not have the holiday spirit, they should not bring others down with a negative attitude. Although you might not want to be at the party, it is still a work event, so you should attend. Events like this are intended to boost employee morale. Randall S. Hanson recommends spending at least 30 minutes at the party, so colleagues can see you were there.

DO: Talk About Things Other Than Work

After working hard all year, it is likely that your coworkers would prefer to talk about things other than work. If you have never seen your coworkers in a social setting outside of the office, it is easy to bank on discussing work-related topics since it is a common-ground. However, most companies will welcome an employee’s significant other/family to the event as well, so by taking an interest in their life outside of work, you will have plenty of other things to talk about. Who knows, maybe it will even be the start of a friendship beyond being cubicle neighbors.

DON’T: Over-Do It

According to Shara Senderoff, the co-founder and CEO of Intern Sushi, “As you celebrate and socialize with your peers, remember they’re still your co-workers, and don’t over-share your personal drama or issues. You don’t want to create an awkward work environment when you return to the office the next morning, and even worse, you risk developing a reputation of being dramatic and immature.” While Senderoff specializes in helping millennials navigate the professional world, her advice is applicable to professionals of all ages and experience.

The holidays are a time for people to relax and refocus. While the holiday party is usually a culmination and celebration of the past year, it is important to remember to not become too relaxed as a result of overindulging. You do not want to be the topic of conversation at the office the next day, so monitoring yourself and knowing your limit is key. That said, it is perfectly acceptable (for those of legal age) to have a drink and show your more social side, but in moderation.

DO: Say “Thank You”

Two words that are forgotten far too often and speak volumes – “thank you.” As with any party, the holiday get-together takes planning and execution. Show gratitude for your employer’s generosity in throwing the party and thank them. Employers – thank your employees for their hard work throughout the past year. After all, it is the holidays.

Wrap Up

Office holiday parties are meant to be a fun, relaxing time to celebrate the season. There are plenty of holiday party horror stories out there, but my following these “do’s and don’ts” you can be sure to still have a good time, but within reason. There is certainly a time and place for everyone to let loose, but while within the company of your coworkers, some sort of professional semblance should be maintained. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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