How to Navigate the Office Holiday Party

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Once again, it’s time for the annual office holiday party—an event that people seem to dread or highly anticipate. Despite the mixed emotions, these gatherings offer a unique setting to socialize with co-workers and get to know them on a more personal level. Unfortunately, they can also be an opportunity to say or do the wrong thing, leaving others with a negative impression that can last for years. With this in mind, here are a few tips to help you prepare for this annual social occasion.

Don’t Pass it Up

Even if you consider yourself an introvert, it’s best to accept the invitation. Not only does it reflect well on you as a professional, but socializing can be beneficial to your mental health. Consider it an opportunity to get to know the newest member of the team, which could make it more enjoyable to work with him or her. At the same time, don’t overstay your welcome, but hang around long enough to engage in some meaningful interactions with your co-workers.

Think Before You Talk

It may be tempting to talk shop at an office party, especially since that’s the one thing you have in common with everybody there. But you should try to talk about something other than work. At the same time, it pays to keep the conversation light. Stick with topics that are both fun and positive, and broad enough to include the group. Err on the safe side and avoid any conversations that involve politics. Complaining about work is an obvious no-no.

Be Professional, But Casual

The office party may be an opportunity to make some professional connections, so don’t be afraid to approach the executives. Thanking the hosts for the invite is the polite thing to do, particularly if you don’t interact with them on the job. It never hurts to begin or strengthen a business relationship. Just don’t overdo it. Be sure to speak with your co-workers and people from other departments as well.

Engage, But Don’t Entertain

Don’t forget that even though it’s a social event, you are also being critiqued from a professional standpoint. Be sure you can handle your alcohol intake, and don’t demolish the buffet. The same goes for dominating conversations, flirting or making others feel uncomfortable. These behaviors can hurt you professionally and strain relationships in the office on a daily basis. Remember that increased stress in the workplace is a risk factor for developing anxiety or depression.

Bottom line: Don’t be intimidated by this year’s office party; it can be a great way to get to know your co-workers as people—not just as fellow employees. Just remember to keep it professional, and have fun.

David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth StreetColumbus, OH 43206 or by phone at 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.