After too many late-nights at the office, mind numbing meetings and banal chitchat with Susan about her many cats, the annual office party will feel long overdue. While you deserve to knock back a few cocktails on the company’s dime and finally have fun with the people you see day in and day out, beware: Office parties are notorious breeding grounds for regret. A work party is still an extension of the workplace, and there are some unofficial rules to follow. Don’t become “that guy” or, worse, land yourself in a meeting with HR the next morning. Avoid these common work party mistakes.
Talking Shop Non-Stop
It’s OK to make a few comments about ongoing projects or gripe about clients, but a work party shouldn’t feel like overtime. Save the conversations about work for the water cooler. Now is the time to break out your killer waterskiing story and let your coworkers in on your latest review of whatever show you’ve been binging non-stop.
Too often, people pass up the free buffet or passed apps at an office party for fear of staining their outfits, sabotaging their diets or looking gluttonous by piling up a plate of food. Forget about all that. Now is the time to take advantage of free dinner. If you don’t fill up on that food, you risk having those Gin & Tonics go straight to your head or, more embarrassingly, to your feet on the dancefloor.
Gossiping About Other Coworkers
You may be tempted to dish about office drama. Don’t. Just because the subjects of your whispered conversation aren’t within earshot, doesn’t mean they won’t hear everything that you said about them eventually. Keep your mouth shut or stuffed full of pigs in a blanket instead.
Complaining About the Boss
The only thing worse than talking about your coworkers is complaining about or mocking your boss. Don’t put your career future in jeopardy just because you’ve mastered the weird way they slurp their coffee. Is he right behind you? Almost definitely.
While it’s perfectly OK to chat about current events with your coworkers, don’t use that third cocktail as liquid encouragement to proclaim your feelings about tax reform and gerrymandering as loud as possible.
Insisting on Shots
We can’t stress this enough: Avoid shots at all costs at work functions. They’ll only lead to regret—especially if you’re the one forcing them on people. You’re bound to make your coworkers feel uncomfortable and pressured to participate, lest they feel like a downer. Keep things civil and fun by grabbing a round of beers for the department instead.
Documenting Coworker Antics
Just because you can keep a level head, doesn’t mean Jim from accounting will. Jim will have enough problems the next day when tales reach him of how he drunkenly got up on the table and sang “Take on Me.” The last thing he needs is a video of the incident ending up on social media. Don’t be a narc, even if you think it’s all in good fun.
Hooking up With a Coworker
If you’re single, you spend more time with your coworkers than you do out at the bar looking to meet someone, so chances are you’ve developed a little work crush. If you think the feeling is mutual, by all means engage in some light flirting over a few drinks to suss out the situation, and see if it’s worth asking them out when you are sober. Do not, we repeat, do not take things to the next level when you’re a few drinks deep. If you are going to slip up, please take things outside, far away from your coworkers. No, that doesn’t mean the bathroom. People need to use that.
Not Drinking at All
Everyone knows that they shouldn’t over-drink at a work party, but it’s just as bad to not drink at all. Barring personal reasons, you should definitely cut loose a little. It may be a work party, but it’s still a party. You deserve to let your hair down and actually have fun with your colleagues. No one wants to see your buttoned-up, sober self judging the rest of the revellers. Relax and order a drink—the company’s paying, after all.