How to Survive Your Office Holiday Party without Becoming the Topic of Water Cooler Gossip

It’s the holidays and that means that it’s time for end-of-the-year office parties. These events can range anywhere from a quiet potluck lunch on site to wildly outrageous gatherings where drinking (and sometimes the use of other drugs) can lead people to become uninhibited to the point of making bad choices that will haunt them for years to come. Your behavior at a holiday party can quite literally destroy your ability to continue to work at a company. Here are four tips for how to survive your holiday party and not become the topic of gossip for the rest of the year.

  1. Remember, it is a work activity. There are very, very, VERY few jobs where it is ever socially acceptable to be drunk. This is a work event. If you wouldn’t normally drink while making copies, answering emails, or doing other day-to-day activities, don’t drink at the party. If you reframe the event in this way, as simply another work task, not drinking won’t seem so odd.
  2. Carry a bottle of water with you at the party. OK, so it’s not great for the environment, but if you have a bottle of water with you at the event, no one will offer you another drink; you already have one.
  3. Bring a guest or sit with a friend. If you’re allowed to bring a guest and you’re feeling uncomfortable about not drinking, you might consider asking a sober friend to accompany you. A few eyebrows might get raised, but your recovery is more important than a little idle speculation. If guests are not welcome, sit or schmooze with a work buddy who knows you’re not drinking and, if you feel uncomfortable, take a break with that friend outside for a few minutes.
  4. Keep it short. You don’t have to be at the party for hours upon hours. Arrive on time; that shows your hosts that you care. Be sure to greet the people you need to say hello to – bosses, supervisors, department heads, etc. – and move on. Once you’ve worked the room, you are under no obligation to stay.

Remember, holiday parties are a time for good cheer and an experience of camaraderie for the members of an organization’s staff. But first and foremost, it’s still a work event. Whether you have a problem with substance abuse or not, bypass the alcohol. You’ll be glad you did.