7 Ways to Kill Your Career at Your Office Holiday Party

Sep 17, 2017

Whatever your opinion of the office holiday party… love it or hate it… if you are planning on attending your own, (or your significant other’s) you might want to check out this list of ‘don’ts’.

Office holiday parties, grand and modest, are a great chance to get to know co-workers outside of the work environment, and enjoy some swanky food and free booze at the same time.  Handled with some common sense and grace, they can not only be fun, but provide a social platform to launch you in your next career move.  Handle the event poorly, and you can kiss that career trajectory goodbye.  People do it every year.

Here are seven things you DO NOT want to do at that office party!

1 . Drink Too Much

This one could be number 1, 2 and 3, it is such a big no-no at any office event.  Here’s what you need to know:  This is a business event.  Behave as if you were in the office, just dressed better and with better food.

Out of concern for ill-mannered behavior, as well as the safety of employees driving home, many companies are limiting how much alcohol is served at company functions, or limiting open bars to just beer and wine.

But no matter what is being served or how much of it is flowing, drinking too much is the number one sure-fire way to do damage to your career.  Whether it’s just the embarrassment of becoming the wrong kind of legend at the office, or the more serious loss of a promotion opportunity, over-indulging is not worth the risk.

Do enjoy yourself!  But here are some tips to help you party, and still be welcomed back at work:

  • Limit drinks with alcohol to a maximum of two.
  • Don’t mix alcoholic drinks.
  • Drink coffee, tea, soft drinks and lots of water.
  • Unusual idea: Try ordering a drink you don’t really like.  You’ll drink it a lot slower than something you love.

2 . Over Eat.

Free food is good.  Swanky free food is better.  But don’t try to eat the equivalent of an extra paycheck at a holiday party.

Most important here is to just be considerate of other people, and remember why you are there (Hint: to socialize!).  Try to keep your hands free for shaking, and your chin clean of foodstuffs.


  • Do not walk around with an overflowing plate of cheese and fruit; you can go back.
  • Do not double dip.  Ever.
  • Discard napkins, toothpicks, etc. where they ought to go.

3 . Over Talk.

Don’t spend the evening talking to the same two people you work with every day.  The office party is an opportunity to get acquainted with people you don’t know that well.  And don’t forget the boss and his/her spouse/SO.

Holiday Party Conversation Tips:

  • Keep conversations to 5 minutes or less.  Then move on.
  • DO talk about things other than business.  DON’T talk business at all if you can help it.
  • Always thank party hosts and organizers before you leave.
  1. Ignore the Dress Code.

Dress is important no matter where the party is being held. You don’t want people talking about what you wore the day or night after the party.   If the party is being run by someone at the company, ask them.  If the party is at someone’s home, call ahead and ask about the dress code.

Remember: you are not going to a nightclub.  Dress nicely, but not seductively.  This is not the place to max out on cleavage.  When in doubt, go with the more conservative option.

  1. Go on an Empty Stomach.

It’s a good idea to have some light snacks or small meal before going to a business party.  This way you won’t be as tempted to rush the buffet, and if the food is slow coming, your stomach won’t be growling.

  1. Don’t Show Up.

Yes, you should go.  Absolutely.

Staying home is not your best option… no matter how appealing the thought.  You can be ‘conspicuous by your absence’ at office parties.   And you will be out of the loop when everyone else is talking about the event over the water cooler.

And don’t forget the networking benefits you can realize.  You might develop a nice relationship with the person who turns out to be your next boss.

  1. Spend the Evening Texting or Posting Photos.

Don’t just show up.  Get in the spirit of the event and mingle.  Introduce yourself to people you don’t ordinarily work with.  This is a way to be seen as a team player, not stand-offish.  If you are uncomfortable with small-talk, prepare ahead with some topics like new movies, vacation plans, etc.