It's office party season, but that doesn't mean you can cut loose with your co-workers like you would with your weekend friends.
"The office party is very challenging for people in the business world," says Barbara Pachter, a business etiquette expert and president of US-based Pachter & Associates. "Part of the reason is that people forget it's a business activity, and they let it all hang out when they are drinking."
Here are her top tips for surviving your office party without making a fool of yourself.
What you wear matters. "You don't want people talking about what you wore the day or night after the party," Pachter says.
For women, the holiday party is not the time to start showing cleavage. "You don't want to dress seductively; it's still a business event," she says.
Have a snack beforehand
"'Eat a little before you go to a business social event," Pachter says. "If you drink, you'll have something in your stomach, and if the food is delayed, you won't be hungry."
It's not really optional, says Pachter. And if you're invited to more than one office party, you should try to show up at all of them.
"People will expect you to be there," she says. "It's an opportunity for you to meet people, and the person you talk to may wind up being the person who interviews you for your next job in three months."
Don't stand in the corner texting your friends or posting photos to Facebook.
"You want to be seen as a team player," Pachter says. "Get to know the people you work with outside of the regular work day."
Enjoy yourself, damnit
Don't just engage with the two people you sit next to all day — mingle and let people know you're enjoying yourself.
If it's a sit-down meal, make sure you arrive on time and socialise during the cocktail hour, before guests take their seats for dinner.
People who are uncomfortable making conversation can even prep a few topics ahead of time, like new movies or holiday plans, Pachter recommends.
Don't stuff yourself
"You're not there for the food — you're there for business, so if you don't like the food, don't eat it," Pachter says.
Know your limit
Getting drunk at the office holiday party is the biggest no-no on this list, and the one most people have trouble abiding by.
"I tell people to set a guideline before they go, which is generally one drink," Pachter says.
Another tip is to order a drink you don't love, and that way you'll nurse it all night instead of guzzling one after another.
Don't sneak out
"Don't show up fashionably late, and say goodbye and thank you when you leave," Pachter says. "You want to take advantage of the time, or have a really good reason why you are leaving."
Professor Dan Lubman, director of Melbourne's Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, says people who drink excessively could find themselves making risky choices they later regret.
He says the decision-making part of the brain becomes less effective as more alcohol is consumed.
"That means we are more likely to do things which we would not normally consider, which explains the increased rates of road accidents, injuries and assaults associated with intoxication," Lubman says.
"Women under the influence of alcohol are also more likely to be sexually assaulted."
Turning Point's clinical director, Matthew Frei, says it's also best to avoid mixing drugs and alcohol.
"Using multiple substances, be they illicit, pharmaceutical or legal drugs, carries some risk because the outcomes and effects of combining multiple substances is less predictable," Dr Frei says.
"Our message is not about taking the fun out of Christmas. It's about ensuring everyone understands the risks with alcohol and drug use, and has a safe end to 2012."
BUSINESS INSIDER with AAP