The holiday season is in full swing and for corporate America this most often means office holiday parties! As someone who has only ever been to her parent’s holiday parties (and when I was 10 years old as well), it didn’t take me very long to realize that the etiquette and social graces required of a pre-teen are very, very different from those required of an employee, and the breadth of things you could do right and wrong is much, much wider.

So while you should be doing your best to keep yourself out of the workplace gossip in general, your holiday office party is the time to pay special attention to your behavior so you don’t accidentally misstep! Don’t make decisions that you might regret in the morning or decisions that could affect how you’re viewed at the workplace once the party is over.

And here to help you with that are my best tips and practices to ace your office holiday party etiquette!

Drink responsibly.

As always, the given comes first, but they definitely bear repeating. I’ve mentioned in a few of my previous posts that the last thing you want is for your alcohol consumption (or your actions as a result of your alcohol consumption) to become a “career-defining moment” for you at your workplace, and this situation is no different. Many private companies will provide an open bar for their employees to enjoy but that doesn’t mean that you should enjoy it too much! Regardless of how many drink tickets you’re handed, or how many times you’re offered a drink, you’re not required to imbibe just because you’re offered the opportunity. Take this time to drink responsibly, mingle with coworkers, and enjoy the event that your management has put on for you.

Office Holiday Party Etiquette Tip: Holiday parties are still work events, so always drink responsibly to avoid damaging your personal brand! Click To Tweet

Dress appropriately.

Regardless of what theme you’re given or how little you’ve been advised on the dress code, remember that this is still a work event, and your outfit should still be workplace appropriate! Most holiday office parties are relatively formal events and should be respected as such, especially if you have been given a dress code. This isn’t your fraternity or sorority “snow pants or no pants” party! If you wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing your outfit to work, you shouldn’t wear it to the office party. When in doubt, always ask your management for advice on what would be considered appropriate!

Thank senior management for the party.

Ultimately, this party is a way for your management to thank you for the hard work that you’ve been doing all year, but don’t forget to thank them for hosting such a wonderful event! Whether that’s through signing a card that you and your coworkers pass around, or walking up to them individually and verbally thanking them, or both, it’s always a good idea to voice your gratitude whenever you’re given the option. It also gives you an opportunity to interact with upper management if you don’t often see them and leaves a good impression on those that you do see around the office.

Limit the PDA if you’re bringing a guest.

Some offices allow you to bring guests to your holiday party, such as significant others or family members, so that they can enjoy the festivities as well. If you do decide to bring your significant other, make sure to limit the PDA while you’re at the event. Once again, you’re in a professional setting where your actions could reflect on your professional brand and change your coworkers’ or managers’ perception of you. If you wouldn’t do it while you’re at your office on a regular work day, don’t do it here.

Be seen, but don’t make a scene.

What exactly does this mean? Exactly what it says. You want your presence to be known at the event for positive reasons that will improve your personal brand at your office, whether that’s offering up a toast to a colleague who accomplished something amazing; engaging in meaningful, genuine conversation with those around you; or taking the time to get to know someone new who you don’t generally interact with around the office. You don’t want to be remembered as the person who got into a bad-natured argument with a coworker as a result of drinking too much. Focus on keeping your impact on the night positive!

Office Holiday Party Etiquette Tip: Make a positive impact on your office holiday party by engaging in meaningful conversation or getting to know a new coworker! Click To Tweet
[Related: How to Build Your Professional Brand]

Support the charity, if there is one.

Often times offices will adopt a charity to support for the event and encourage their employees to give donations as a way of giving back to the community for the holiday season. For instance, my office this year is supporting the USO’s Toys for Tots initiative, which provides toys to the children of our soldiers who are currently stationed overseas, and has asked us to bring in an unwrapped toy to our event! If the charity is for a cause that you feel comfortable supporting, and you have the means to support it in any way that you can, then definitely put in the extra effort to make a donation. It’s one of the ways that employers practice corporate social responsibility and can really make an impact on people’s lives!

Show up on time, leave on time.

Contrary to popular belief, showing up early and leaving late isn’t a polite use of your time unless you’re helping to set up or break down the event. If you’re at a venue, it’s only rented for a certain amount of time and management has coordinated the event to account for that in their budget! And they’ll probably be doing plenty of last-minute preparations to ensure that everything is ready when people begin to arrive — at the time they said the event started. So make sure that you try your hardest to be there on time and leave on time so that you’re being considerate to those putting on the event!

Office Holiday Party Etiquette Tip: Be considerate of those putting on the event by showing up on time and leaving on time! Click To Tweet

What’s your best holiday party etiquette tip? Let me know in the comments below!

15 thoughts on “It’s the Holiday (Party) Season: Office Holiday Party Etiquette

  1. Saying thank you is such a great tip! I feel like we often work thankless jobs and a little goes a long way, especially when there’s tons of planning involved.

  2. There’s always that ONE person who shows up in a highly unprofessional outfit and then another that gets way too cheerful with the holiday punch! It’s sad people even need to be told how to behave at office parties!

  3. I think the PDA tip is so important! I feel like whenever I bring a guest I’m trying to pay as much attention as possible to them and I end up not socializing with anyone else!

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