Do Not Jingle All the Way

Office or work related holiday parties are a potential minefield of gaffs.

Illustration by Tony Healey

Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of New Orleans Bride and New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and managing editor of Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her ever-ready stash of blank thank-you notes. Submit business etiquette questions to


Recently, I read a great tip on for when you attend a business or business-related event in which alcohol is being served and you’d like to imbibe a little or at least blend in: Order a drink you don’t particularly care for, because you’ll naturally sip and drink it more slowly.

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Obviously you don’t have to drink at all or appear to drink, but if you do, this is a good strategy. With the holidays upon us, office parties and festive networking events are kicking up and it’s easy to lose track of time and the number of drinks you’ve consumed when kicking up your heels with colleagues and contacts. No one wants to be the drunken guy or gal at the work party, so putting an easy plan in place like this one can offer a little built-in insurance.

Drinking isn’t the only thing to watch out for when it comes to the office holiday party. We explored holiday party etiquette in this space in 2014, but it’s never too soon for a refresher. Here are a few other things to keep in mind this season (or any time you are at a work-related party).

First, plan to attend your company holiday party, unless you legitimately have another commitment. Your boss will notice if you are absent and so will his or her boss. It’s not enough just to show up however. Rather, it’s important to participate in the festivities. Mix, mingle and use the event as an opportunity to chat up someone you don’t normally talk to at the office. That said, while a little shoptalk is fine, conversations shouldn’t center around business the entire time. Catch up on current events and have a few book, movie or travel conversation starters in your back pocket. This will also help you sidestep the office gossip mill. If someone starts to natter on about a colleague in an ungenerous way, change the subject or excuse yourself.

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Conversely, do not use the office party as an opportunity to hit on your crush. This is neither the time nor the place and you are quite likely to become fodder for the very gossip mill you are trying to avoid. It’s also unprofessional to show too much PDA to your significant other. In fact, don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself. Save your impression of John Belushi’s “Animal House” character “Bluto” doing the “gator” during the song “Shout” for your family and friends holiday gathering and keep any and all party tricks under your hat.

Ugly Christmas sweaters are usually a pretty harmless choice of attire, but before shimmying into that or any other festive garment, consider your workplace culture. If your office dress code is strictly business and you haven’t received instructions that it’s an ugly sweater party or that the event is casual, opt for a suit and tie or dress. It’s OK to incorporate festive elements into business attire, so for example a suit could be paired with a holiday-themed tie (nothing risqué) or a dress or blouse and pants set can include a bit of shimmer and shine. Whether the event is formal, casual or something between however, always avoid anything too short, too tight, too revealing or too far from what you would normally wear to work. When in doubt, ask your manager or human resources representative for attire suggestions.

If you post about the party or share photos on social media don’t say anything negative and avoid images of yourself or others drinking excessively or misbehaving. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to put alcoholic beverages down or hide them in a work photo.

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At some point during the party or before you depart, be sure to thank your bosses (or whomever paid for the event) and your colleagues who planned it. If you can’t find them, send an email the next day.

Finally, business holiday parties are of course an opportunity to see your clients and colleagues outside of work and it’s OK to have a good time, but don’t relax so much that you forget it is a work function.


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