11 ways to avoid totally $&!@ing up your holiday party

Holiday parties: totally fun times. Also, precarious traps seemingly designed to funnel pantless revelers straight to HR. How to navigate the holiday season without catching a letter in your file, getting outright canned, or becoming forever known as "that guy"? Why, by reading our guide of course! And it's helpfully illustrated by two stand-ins for bad and good party rocking -- Basic & Badass (you don't want to be basic).

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Illustration by Sean Cowie

1. Know how to talk to your boss

Printing such scintillating titles as “Peerage and Baronetage” (the only “up-to-date printed guide of the United Kingdom’s titled families”), you’d expect the British etiquette experts at Debrett’s to have a few tips on appropriately prostrating oneself to office royalty. Their advice on interacting with your boss like a boss? Lose the seriousness but keep things professional, and know when to move along -- probably on a steed bearing your coat of arms, or however it is that landed Brits get around these days.

"According to one study, close to a third of respondents had a one night stand after a holiday party".

Don't do this
Illustration by Derek Springsteen

2. And talk to people besides said boss

If you moved along from your convo with upper management in a timely fashion as recommended, you’re going to have to find other people to speak with during the rest of the night, or worse yet, someone is going to start a conversation with you. In order to avoid awkward silences or appearing like a soulless work drone, the Emily Post institute suggests coming armed with a few current topics in mind to break the ice, and avoiding yes or no questions to extend the conversation. Of course, they also claim that the days when people “got roaring drunk and ended up wearing lampshades are out of style”, and everyone knows that wearing lampshades will never go out of style.

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Illustration by Sean Cowie

3. Pregame responsibly 

Modern-day scientists have finally proven what a bunch of hunter-gatherers already knew 10,000 years ago: cows look delicious and will crumble under our agrarian control consuming moderate amounts of alcohol in a group setting enhances social ties. So grabbing a beer or two en route to your party is perfectly acceptable, especially if you use it as an excuse to “bond” with a few coworkers. Drinking a bottle of bonded whiskey at your desk, not so much.

"Avoid having a gang of reindeer reenacting the Nativity all over your torso".

4. Know what you're drinking

Four basic rules should set you up for the night: 

  • Avoid punches and other drinks of unknown alcohol percentage to ensure you make it past midnight.
  • Stay clear of carbonated beverages, as these fizzy friends speed up alcohol absorption.
  • It's an old chestnut but valid: drink a glass of water for every more-spirited libation you put down.
  • Bring your own supply of Shasta. 
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Illustration by Sean Cowie

5. Don't dress like a clown

Displaying a touch of non-denominational holiday cheer casually projects confidence and personality, and provides an icebreaker for inevitably awkward interactions with any coworkers whose countries of origin you couldn’t find on a map. But cranking your sartorial splendor up to 11 will read as a desperate cry for attention, so maybe avoid having a gang of reindeer reenacting the Nativity all over your torso.

6. Don't try to be the guy who puts "Christ" in "Christmas"

You likely work with a mix of people of many creeds, colors, and denominations. Even more important than possibly offending them with your 10-minute screed about "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" is definitely embarrassing yourself with that speech. Nobody wants to hang with the dude who has extraordinarily strong opinions about, well, anything (unless it's Yu-Gi-Oh cards!), but especially not about a salutation used one month out of the year.

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Illustration by Sean Cowie

7. Don't call in sick

According to a report by Caron Treatment Centers, nearly two-thirds of Americans have either called in sick themselves after an office party or know someone who has, making this roughly the billionth situation in which you don’t want to be aligned with the majority of the US population. If you’re really hellbent on crushing the after-after-party and can’t function on two hours of sleep and an Egg McMuffin, at least plan ahead and take the day off in advance.

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Illustration by Sean Cowie

8. Keep hookups at home

Look, we’re not here to tell you not rub your stylus on the company phablet, or whatever the modern equivalent for today’s inkless companies would be. Hell, according to one study, close to a third of respondents had a one night stand after a holiday party, with another third of the remaining pool indicating they’d do so if given the chance. But at least have the common sense to not kickstart things on the dancefloor in plain view of everyone -- people undoubtedly already talk about you behind your back enough without throwing sexual napalm onto the fire.

"Better to prove you're cool by showing up and throwing down the corporate card for a round of drinks than by dragging everyone to Tits & Giggles".

9. And don't regret them

Of the people polled in a 2014 CareerBuilder survey, 38% owned up to having dated someone in the office. That means that at least, like, 90% of employees have had “relations” with a coworker that never blossomed into “dating”. The point is, office hookups are prevalent. If you have one, don’t avoid your coworker like you’ve committed some unpardonable Scarlet Letter-level sin THAT WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING IF IT EVER GETS OUT AND OH MY GOD I’M SO ASHAMED MAYBE I SHOULD GET ON CAREERBUILDER.COM AND FIND A NEW JOB. Grab a damn coffee, acknowledge that copulation occurred, and if there’s mutual interest in copulating again maybe you’ll become part of that 38%.

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Illustration by Derek Springsteen

10. Don't try to plan the after party

It’s fine to head to the after party once things wind down at the official event, but don’t be the one to plan it, especially if you’re in a management position. As Minneapolis-based employment attorney Kate Bischoff told NPR, “in certain circumstances, employees don’t feel they can say no to their boss”, so better to prove you're cool by showing up and throwing down the corporate card for a round of drinks than by dragging everyone to Tits & Giggles.

Or this
Illustration by Derek Springsteen

11. Prepare to change clothes

Do you find yourself finishing a whole bag of chips whenever you open one? Is your collection of pogs too big for just one sleeve? Is there always time for just one more episode of Criminal Minds on ION before going to bed? Well congratulations, you have both excellent taste in procedural dramas and absolutely no self-control, meaning you’ll jump at the chance to have sex no matter the repercussions! Knowing this about yourself, plan ahead and bring in a gym bag with a change of clothes the day of the party, lest your clothes do your bedroom boasting for you.