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'Tis the Season to Party

Holiday Work Party
Published on December 8, 2009 : 3 comments

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Tis the season to party! Holiday formal work parties, department luncheons, and the list goes on. Work parties are just that: parties. Companies use this time to celebrate their commitment to their employees and to allow people to relax together. They are said to have begun during the depression when economics were, well, depressing.

Employers and Employees look forward to celebrating the holiday season. Long gone is the office "Christmas Party." It has been replaced by the "Holiday Party" to recognize the diversity that is valued and appreciated in the work place. Visions of alcohol flowing freely and copy machine antics is best left to the bygone stereotypes of office party etiquette.

The opportunity to share with colleagues can be rewarding and develop new relationships. People come together to celebrate each other and the hard work that contributed to the company’s success, yet also appreciate the struggles. The do’s and don’t’s apply to both the employer and employee.

Behaving at the Office Party?


Some employees are hesitant to attend the office party. The office holiday party is an ideal time to get to know people that you may work with via e-mail or phone but rarely have a chance to interact on a one to one basis. Employees should not lose site that this is a business activity. Plan for the party as you would for a meeting with your boss, client, or customer. It doesn’t mean that you need to bring note cards, but take a moment to be aware of things other than work.

Many guests want to avoid work talk and interact in a lighter, informal setting. This doesn’t mean that you want to launch into discussions on politics, religion, or sensitive business issues. It’s not your family and friends you’re socializing with–it is your boss, their boss, and co-workers.

Some employers still offer alcohol at these events. Please do not take this as an invitation to have a free for all.  Set a limit–one is best–but feel free to decline if you are not a drinker. You do not want to be the life of the party. As a work event dress and behave in a professional manner. The dated picture of wearing a lampshade really isn’t funny anymore.

Listening and asking questions is important, just as in any social situation. Learning about others says you are interested and sincere. What boss doesn’t want to see that in the people they work with every day?

While attending the event, use it as an opportunity to visit with people you normally do not have contact with on a day to day basis. Be assertive but professional and introduce yourself to others.

Be a gracious guest. Take the time to thank your boss and team members responsible for organizing the event. Enjoy the party, but be cautious. In this day of blogging, twittering, and video cell phones, unprofessional behavior will make it around the office gossip vine before you leave.

Sponsoring the Office Party?


Many employees do look forward to the office party, even if it is scaled back because of difficult economic conditions this year.   Employers still need to treat this as a business activity. Employers have been found liable for conduct of managers and co-workers at business sponsored parties, even if they are voluntary. Just because there is liability attached to employers having a party, the event is great recognition for employees.

Employers should be clear that the event is voluntary and that employees are not required to attend. While employees are encouraged to attend (see earlier), making it voluntary is important for an employer.

Many events are held off-site. This helps the festive nature of the event. If you are offering alcohol, use a professional bartender, and consider limiting the number of drinks per guest during a cocktail hour. Be sure to include non-alcoholic drinks. Don’t make drinking the main focus of the party.

If employers observe excessive drinking call a cab or make arrangements for the employee to get home safely. Using volunteers designated drivers and spotters are a great way to say you value employees and their safety. Sometimes when events are held at local hotels, the employer may negotiate a book of rooms at a reduced rate for employees to enjoy at a discount.

Most importantly enjoy the holiday season and one another!


Post a Job! $29 for 30 days

KNicoliniKathleen A. Nicolini, SPHR, MBA President, Favor Human Resources Consulting


Gary Neal (not verified) says:

June 9, 2011 : 12 years 49 weeks ago

Gary Neal's picture

Thanks for the post. I just graduated from Creighton with an MBA but I’m nervous to begin work. I appreciate the post. I’ll make sure and use your tips.

Kathleen A. Nicolini (not verified) says:

June 10, 2011 : 12 years 49 weeks ago

Kathleen A. Nicolini's picture

Gary, Good luck with your career. Some good advice I received from my college mentor was “while your colleagues can be wonderful people, they are your colleagues -and work is work”. Mistakes I observed with years of HR experience is when the two areas gray. People speak of boundaries and this work its important to keep those clear. Enjoy your career.

Gary (not verified) says:

June 10, 2011 : 12 years 49 weeks ago

Gary's picture

Thanks so much for the advice! I really appreciate it. I’ll try and keep that in mind. Hopefully there are no cute girls at the office eh? :)

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