How to survive the office Christmas party

The silly season is in full swing and you have just landed at the office Christmas party.

Do you: a) make a beeline for the bar and end the night passed out in a corner? or b) throw caution to the wind, pass up the fun and end the night alone sitting in a corner?

Never, ever use the Christmas party as a moment to declare that hot crush that you have been nursing secretly.

The answer, of course, is neither.

"You don't want to be the geek sitting very uncomfortably at the party by themselves because they would rather be at the computer," says Lyn Fletcher, operations director at Relationships Australia NSW.

"That's as bad a look as the person having too much fun and pashing the boss's secretary."

Psychologist and careers expert Meredith Fuller says the key to balancing the two extremes between party pooper and party animal is to be relaxed, but still alert.

"You can build new friendships if you're a bit more approachable, instead of entirely inaccessible," Fuller says.

Another way to approach the office party is considering it as a "photo opportunity" to showcase your social skills, which can be a precursor to new work opportunities.

"Colleagues evaluate you all the time and what they're looking for are your interpersonal skills and how you manage unusual situations," says Fuller.


"For example, how you handle people who have had too much to drink.

"They're not monitoring your every whisper, they just want to see you have manners or are diplomatic, and they might think `this person may be a good ambassador for that upcoming conference'."

Although you may not physically be at the office, you are still technically at work, so all the same rules may apply.

"Legally if your company puts on a Christmas party, it is considered a workplace," says Fletcher.

"This is still a work function and you're still within the work context. Formalities may drop a bit, but not to the extent that you can muck around where you might with your friends on a Saturday night."

Both Fuller and Fletcher agree that, while most workers are there to have fun and celebrate, bad behaviour will not go unnoticed.

If you hear yourself complaining about the lack of stationery to the CEO or copying parts of your body on the xerox machine, these snippets may not be forgotten in the new year.

"Keep your hands below your shoulder line - if you're gesticulating wildly and your hands are above your head, you look out of control," Fuller says.

"This is not the place to be jumping up and down on the table and have everyone hear what you're shouting.

"And while your laugh may sound charming or infectious to you, you may sound like a hyena to others," Fuller says.

Most of all, avoid using the office party as a pick-up joint - even if you've waited all year for an opportune moment to ask out the gorgeous newbie from accounts.

"Never, ever use the Christmas party as a moment to declare that hot crush that you have been nursing secretly - and never because you've been emboldened by a few drinks," Fuller says.

"If you wouldn't walk up to them and pash them in the office, don't do it at the party," agrees Fletcher.

Instead, if you know your crush likes deep-sea diving, a harmless conversation about the topic will give you the opportunity to follow it up next year when work resumes.

And finally, with all the potential for mishaps, it's worth remembering why companies bother holding end-of-year bashes in the first place.

"It's a way for companies to thank employees for their hard work. It finishes off the year on a high note of appreciation, sending off everyone with a good feeling," says Fuller.

"We all like our rituals and there aren't many left these days."


* Remember the context - you are still legally at work

* Limit your alcohol intake - as a guideline use one drink per hour, or a glass of water after every drink

* Don't use the office party as a pick-up joint. Save it for the after-party, or build a mutual point of interest that you can follow up in the new year

* Catch up with people outside your immediate contact to build good relationships in the new year

* Resist the urge to revisit office politics, or complain about the food. It's a party, not a whinge session

* Arrive later when the party has already started and leave before it is dying - your colleagues are more likely to remember the first and last thing at the party

* If you see a colleague being aggressive or acting inappropriately, distract them with "there's somebody over here I want you to meet", or "how about we go for a walk outside for a minute?"

* A good conversation starter is a compliment about a joint project you've worked on, but don't say anything you don't mean.