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Party on … in moderation

Want to ensure a safe, successful, and lawsuit-free office holiday party this year? Follow these tips.

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Work and play hard

Employees have some skin in the game at the office holiday party, too. Responsible behavior should be expected, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a good time that’s also productive professionally.

“While these types of events are almost always optional, the holiday party is still a work function and attending shows both your colleagues and supervisors that you are invested in the company,” Johnson explains. “It’s also an opportunity to rub elbows with those in positions that you may not normally get to speak to in the office. These types of events have the potential to be very beneficial for one’s career, because it offers an opportunity to present yourself and your ideas to a wider audience both in and outside of the organization. I say outside of the organization here, too, because there is a group of individuals generally invited to these parties that is often overlooked; the guests. Engaging in conversation with a colleague’s guest may open doors for an employee, as well, so employees should remember not to only be concerned about joining the boss’ conversation. You never know who might become an ally as you build your resume and career, so make those connections and be sure to follow up with a note or email thanking them for their time and to say that you enjoyed meeting them.”

If an employee is going to choose to have cocktails at the party, he or she should be sure to drink lots of water and eat plenty of food, as well, notes Johnson.

That should be obvious. However, “everyone knows that it’s not a good idea to imbibe too much, but being in an environment where you’re nervous or perhaps don’t eat as much as you normally would can exacerbate the effects of alcohol,” Johnson says. “Know your limits ahead of time, and if you do find yourself in a situation where you’ve had one too many, excuse yourself and take a safe mode of transportation home as soon as possible.”

That said, gaffes do happen. If you’re the employee who winds up with a lampshade on your head, Johnson says don’t hide from your mistake.

“Everyone makes mistakes, the key here is to own up and make it right as soon as possible. If an employee says or does something embarrassing at the holiday party they should address it head on. Although it can be tempting to call in sick or just avoid co-workers, it’s not a practical solution.”

If the gaffe was between you and one other co-worker, pull them aside or send an email to explain the mistake and apologize, advises Johnson. If the mistake was of a more public nature, such as over imbibing and dancing on a table or some other embarrassing situation, then speak to your boss and ask for their advice, but don’t gossip about it with co-workers. This can distract them from their work, and can actually make the situation worse by sharing your mistake with those who weren’t there or didn’t see it.

If an employee finds himself or herself being sent to HR over the situation, they should not try to justify or make excuses, she adds. “Be honest and apologize — it’s also good to explain what you’re going to do going forward so that a mistake like this never happens again.”

Although there are risks inherent in holding a company holiday party, the morale benefits of hosting a successful event for employees will often outweigh any concerns, notes Johnson. “Take time to plan, be thoughtful and thankful for your staff and business success this holiday season.”

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