Office party etiquette

There’s a legendary story told frequently during the parties time of the year at a large New York public relations firm. As it goes, a new hire fresh out of college has too much to drink at the company holiday party. She shares a cab to the same neighborhood with one of the firm’s vice presidents and, well, she barfs in his lap.

Probably not what you’d call a good career move:

Don’t be that person. Be merry and festive – have a few drinks and laugh with your colleagues. But don’t overindulge. If you get drunk and set foolishly, no one will forget, and it’s likely to negatively affect your career. Instead, use this as an opportunity to mingle with higher ups and staffers in other departments. Holiday parties are a great opportunity to meet important people at your company in a less formal setting.

The most important thing employees should always remember regarding office holiday parties is, regardless of where the party is held, it is an extension of the workplace, and one needs to behave accordingly

At Bliss PR in Manhattan, founder Bliss doesn’t take chances. For more than 15 years he has required employees to eat at a pre-party pizza dinner. Each year he orders enough pizza for the 30-member staff around 4:30 and watches to make sure everyone has a few slices. It’s the best guarantee possible that no one will drink on an empty stomach.

It makes sure people have something in their stomach like blotting paper before starting the party. That way you have fun without getting embarrassed.

Companies like Bliss have a lot at stake. When they invite clients to the party, the last thing they need is a drunken staffer. Perhaps that’s part of the reason companies are offering less alcohol at their holiday parties. This year, 70% of companies will serve alcohol, a 15% drop from 2006, according to executive search firm Battalia Winston’s annual survey. Of those serving alcohol, a majority (58%) are taking steps to restrict consumption. These steps include having the event focused on a meal (20%) closing the bar earlier (16%) serving beer and wine only (13%) and limiting the number of complimentary drink tickets (9%).

Annmaria recalls a holiday celebration a few years ago for her sales team at a leading financial services firms. The group began the evening at a downtown restaurant and then headed to a dance club. This being a celebratory evening, their boss picked up the bill for a limousine to get them from the restaurant to the club. While on route, one of the staffers got sick and ended up vomiting into her purse.

The next day at the meeting everyone was talking about it, and their opinion of her had been altered.

Party Do’s & Don’ts

*Arrive early: This is a good chance to chat with senior executives in a relaxed atmosphere before it gets too hectic.
* Don’t be a Wallflower: Branch out and introduce your self to people in other departments. You never know who can help you move up the ladder.
* Stay in control: Getting bombed at a company sponsored event may not get you fired, but it will make you the butt of jokes and could have a lasting negative effect. It’s just not worth it.
* No flirting: It risks being constructed as sexual harassment. Besides, it’s just creepy.
* Attend other company parties: If you’re invited to another company’s party, do. It’s a good way to network with people outside your firm.