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The Office Party – A Political Minefield

The office party is a time to let your hair down and forget about work woes. So why is it that so many office parties are dreaded by employees?

While management would like you to think it’s a time to let your hair down and relax, what they really mean is: show up on time, don’t drink too much, be polite, don’t speak your mind, bring food and keep up the usual workplace charade! Sound fun yet? No, didn’t think so – not many of us want to spend our free time at work, with people we don’t particularly like and managers we would rather avoid.

Unfortunately, if you want to do well in your career and appear like a model employee, then you will have to attend. But with so many things to refrain from, and a number of cringe worthy ways you ‘should’ act, it is a political minefield for most employees on how to behave at an office party.

Here are some classic Do's and Don'ts to follow …

  • DO show up, and preferably on time! Nothing looks worse than a no-show, or the ‘fashionably’ late. At work it’s not fashionable, it’s just tardiness.
  • DO keep to 'safe' topics of conversation such as hobbies, films or the weather. Avoid anything that involves religion, politics, money or that edges towards the discriminatory line.
  • DO act like a professional. Just because it’s called a party, it is not an excuse to speak or act out of turn. Behave appropriately and remember that your managers are watching.
  • DO accept a drink. Even if you are only drinking soft drinks, make sure you have some sort of beverage in your hand, otherwise you will just appear rude and distant.
  • DO thank the manager or host for holding the party when you leave, and state that you had an excellent time (even if you didn’t). Politeness is key!
  • DO wear something snazzy but avoid anything revealing or too informal. If the function is somewhere nice, then dress the part! Don’t show up in jeans, or wearing a revealing top.
  • DON’T drink too much. It’s all very well being jolly, but other people may not appreciate your drunken behavior. Remember this is still a work event.
  • DON’T over stay your welcome. Arrive on time and leave before the stipulated ‘leaving time’. This shows that you are polite enough to attend and be seen, but you are not taking advantage of the free food and drink.
  • DON’T get freaky on the dance floor! For goodness sake, if you dance with a colleague keep it appropriate. Even if your party is in a bar or club, you must keep in mind that you will be seeing these people in work Monday morning and you will not be happy if faced with a sexual harassment complaint!
  • DON’T complain. The party is a time to forget about office politics and troubles. No-one wants to hear you wine on about issues at work.
  • DON’T bring a guest unless you are requested to. If you do have to bring a quest, then pick wisely! This person will be a reflection on you.
  • DON’T start a fight. You may hate the guy who sits next to you at work but the office party is not the place to deal with your issues. Go to your manager if you have concerns, and definitely leave it out of the office party.

If you follow the above Do’s and Don’ts then you should be more than equipped to ace your office party. Your aim is to be seen by management (strike up an intelligent conversation wtih them!), be sociable (chat to colleagues and keep smiling), appear fun and friendly, all the while maintaining an air of professionalism.


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