Navigate your office holiday party with ease this season.

It’s that time of year again. Time for the much anticipated holiday office party. You’re excited and nervous all wrapped up with a tidy bow. Not to fear. Your feelings are quite normal.

While everyone loves a party, office parties are a bit different. They’re meant to allow employees to kick back, get to know one another, and enjoy holiday festivities. The problem is, just like at the office during the average day, your actions are under scrutiny at office holiday parties as well. The only difference at office parties, however, is that there’s alcohol involved and inhibitions are lower than normal.

A holiday office party is no joke. It’s important to play by the rules. Failing to do so can leave you hunting for a new job in the New Year. In order to stay gainfully employed and not ruin your career during this year’s holiday party, be sure to follow these simple office party etiquette rules.

Rule #1: Don’t skip it.

If you receive an invite to your office's holiday party, be sure to attend. Not showing up to the party sends signals that you don't care or you aren't part of the team. It can also lead to awkward moments the following workday when your teammates are all laughing about something that happened at the party and you're left out.

Attendance at your office's holiday party is especially important for new employees. An office holiday party is a great opportunity to connect with your boss and your peers and show them you're more than the responsibilities of your professional role. Once you establish a personal connection with your colleagues by engaging with them at the holiday party, they're more likely to want to work with you, help you and be engaged with you at work as well.

Rule #2: Dress appropriately.

Not sure what to wear to a company christmas party? Be sure to check in with your co-workers to determine the appropriate dress code for your upcoming office party. If the theme is ugly sweater, then don’t be a downer and be sure to wear the ugliest holiday-themed sweater you can find. It’s a definite conversation starter. Not doing so, however, can result in conversations happening behind your back about you not being a team player.

If the theme is more formal, make sure you take that route. Showing up with your ugly sweater to a suit and tie affair won’t be considered funny. Be sure to follow whatever dress code is in place, and you’ll be off to a great start.

Rule #3: Alcohol in moderation.

In order to keep the momentum moving in the right direction, this next office party etiquette rule is of utmost importance. Many, if not the majority, of offices parties tend to have free alcohol available. While this may be tempting, it can also spell disaster. Lots of otherwise model employees have been canned for not following this basic rule.

Don’t overindulge!

Drinking too much alcohol at your office holiday party can lower your guard and make you act ridiculous. It can lead to arguments or you dancing on a table (or something along those lines). Don’t be the person who drinks too much and then makes a spectacle of themselves at the office party. You’ll never live it down. Your behavior will go down as legend, and you may even end up losing your job altogether.

Rule #4: Stay away from sensitive subjects.

Office flings are obviously a sensitive subject, but they aren’t the only subjects to avoid. Typically, workers in an office environment are most comfortable around their peers. They’ve developed a certain rapport where it’s understood which subjects are on or off limits.

One thing to consider when attending a holiday office party is that the subject matter you’ve cleared as OK within your department or between those with whom you work closely may not be appropriate outside of that circle. Consider that everyone from the company will be invited. There’s a good chance you’ll be mingling with people with whom you don’t frequently connect.

Rule #5: Prep your elevator pitch.

You’ve got goals to move up in your company, but progress has been slow. If done properly, your office holiday party can offer a great opportunity to help you move the process along a bit faster.

It isn’t often that you get a chance to talk to the c-level staff at your company. The office party offers just such a chance. Be sure to be prepared when the chance does present itself. As long as you’ve followed the rest of the office party etiquette rules up until meeting with those who can help you enhance your ability to be promoted, you’re in a good position.

When the situation does arise, however, you need to be prepared. Don’t get caught making small talk about the weather and stumbling over your words. Put together an elevator pitch that presents you as a model employee and makes mention of your contributions, without coming across as bragging, of course.

Practice your pitch with a colleague or your partner. Get feedback from them to ensure you don’t come across pushy and you get the main points across. Be personable during the conversation, and be sure to ask questions as well. No one wants to promote the “all about myself” employee. Show you care about others and be genuine in your communication.

Be serious about office parties, but have fun.

I realize all of these office party etiquette rules kind of take the fun out of the party. So I want to stress that it’s also important to allow yourself to have fun. As long as you do so within the confines of the rules above, you’ll make it through your party unscathed, and you might just enjoy it as well.

Office parties are a great opportunity to bond with your co-workers, make new connections, interact with your boss (and their bosses) on a deeper level and even position yourself for a promotion. Don’t shy away from your office holiday party because of the scary picture I’ve painted. Embrace them.

Showing that you’re interested in a deeper relationship with the company and its employees can show your employer that you’re a long-term asset to the company. They’ll see the dedication you have to being a part of what’s going on, and you can benefit from it.

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