how to survive your office holiday party

Every December, my inbox fills up with emails from people asking about their office holiday parties. Chief among their concerns: How optional or mandatory is this, really? Other questions on a lot of minds: Should you bring a date or is it better to go solo? Can you drink or should you teetotal it? What are you going to talk about for several hours while you stuff cookies in your mouth and pretend to be delighted to be there?

At New York Magazine today, I tackled everything you need to know about office party etiquette to get you through the evening. You can read it here.

I also recorded a piece for the BBC about office parties, which you can hear here.

{ 222 comments… read them below }

  1. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I’ve seen a few careers derail because the party-goer ignored Rules 8 and 9. ‘Enjoy yourself!’ doesn’t mean ‘Sure, we’d love to see you bonging beer!’

    1. Rainbow Roses*

      I know a person who got wasted but still thought she was just being fun and cool after being back at work. She was completely unaware her reputation was trashed and others laughing at her, not with her.

      Drink and have fun but this is not a frat party. Geese louise.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Agree, but we’ve all had bad moments….Seems kind of petty to trash someone and laugh at them (assuming we’re talking standard drank too much). Two wrongs don’t make a right, as former President McKinley used to say (prior to his assassination)

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I took “her reputation was trashed” to just mean that no one thought well of her anymore, not that they were actively going around talking about it. (Though that certainly could have happened as well)

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Some people have a real hard time with code-switching from group to group. Unfortunately the behaviors that maybe make them the fun popular person within their personal life don’t usually apply at work.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      Not careers derailed necessary, but a couple of over-indulgers got our open bar cut off at a previous job, after they got so hammered that they were puking in garbage cans. We’d shut down the office early and had caterers in with free food and drinks. The culprit coworkers actually left earlier to “pre-game” at the hotel bar across the street (so they paid a lot for drinks when they could have waited for free drinks?), then came back and drank more, and got absolutely shitfaced. I’m not sure if management knew exactly who did it (outside of the one manager who was one of those overly-drunk people), but it was an open secret among the general employees.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Our open bar got closed the next year (tickets) when a couple of idiots couldn’t wait for the free cabs and bagged DUIIs at…8:30 pm. I kid you now.

    3. Anon for this*

      I once drove two of my coworkers to the after-party bar after the party ended. The bar was in a posh outdoor shopping center (you know the kind that tries to look like a quaint 19-century European town, when it is in fact a shopping mall. Ours offered horse carriage rides during the daytime, to complete the illusion.) with upscale-ish shops and food places, and a couple of banks in case anyone needed cash for all that. On our walk from the parking lot to the bar, Coworker 1 couldn’t hold it any longer, walked up to a bank’s entrance, unzipped, and started peeing. Coworker 2 stood watch. A group of several old ladies appeared, walking in our direction. I ran towards them to interfere. I hit them with my best on-the-spot idea, which was asking them what time it was, and then not being able to hear their answer and asking again, several times in a row. It worked. I now keep seeing Coworker 1 on my LinkedIn in various manager positions, I believe he even ended up at the same company that I am working now. He keeps moving up the ladder. And I will never not be able to think of him as The Guy Who Peed On a Wall at (shopping center). The rate he’s moving up, he might be my CEO one day and I still have the mental image in my head of him peeing. Maybe don’t be Coworker 1.

      1. Marthooh*

        But to be fair, that’s normal behavior for a tipsy 19th century gentleman. Speaking of completing the illusion.

    4. AskAnEmployee*

      Employer sponsored parties that involve alcohol are such a liability. I always find it laughable that self styled “best places to work”have an alcohol-fueled culture. I mean, if a company is so great, why do employees need to drink in order to enjoy themselves?

  2. Kimmy Schmidt*

    I’ve always been curious in what type of industries these lengthy, after work parties are common in. I’ve never worked anywhere that doesn’t have a lunch hour potluck/buffet type thing.

    1. londonedit*

      Publishing (at least in the UK). Everywhere I’ve worked has had either a boozy office lunch where no one goes back to work afterwards (which usually continues into after-work drinks) or an after-work evening party, or sometimes both on different days (often there’s a department lunch-that-turns-into-drinks and then an all-company evening party).

      1. Jane*

        I also work in publishing but don’t have the same experience here (I’m in the US).

        Our “parties” are the saddest things ever.

        1. Liz*

          I worked in publishing my first job out of college. we had nothing. no party, no lunch, nada. At least not sponsored by the company. my bosses always took us out to lucnh, but that was on their own dime as the company wouldn’t have paid for it.

      2. Goliath Corp.*

        I also work in publishing and our Christmas parties are always a (nice) office lunch – I think they know how burnt out we are from all the other evening events throughout the year. I’m very grateful!

      3. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

        Yeah – I’m in publishing and our office Christmas party routinely goes past 3 am. It’s a huge thing with multiple locations, there’s a dress code, different events on the agenda, fancy food, open bar, and later a DJ into the wee hours of the morning.

        I realise this must sound like a nightmare to lots of people, but we’re a niche publisher which attracts the kind of people who like to go ALL OUT for this. I have never seen a place embrace theme dress codes the way they do here.

      4. Mouse*

        Also in publishing and ours is an evening party that usually moves to an “unofficial” separate location late into the night.

      5. staaaaaaaaaaaaaaar*

        US publishing here. Ours is usually a small, rather sad affair consisting of a potluck with another department with a tiny bit of booze.

    2. Rainbow Roses*

      I was in the finance industry and there was an outside party each year after work. Completely optional to attend.

      I usually just went to the individual department lunch and skipped the “official” party.

    3. Mid*

      Law—we had a fancy dinner at a $$$ restaurant, paid for by the firm. It was scheduled over a month out, attendance was optional (but who doesn’t want a free dinner?) We closed the office two hours early so people could go home and change if they wanted (or do happy hour at a nearby bar.)

    4. Amber Rose*

      Manufacturing here. Our parties are always on a Friday, we get off an hour or two early to go home and get ready, and the DJ plays music until 2 am. This year I believe there was midnight pizza available for the hardcore party-goers who stick around until the end.

    5. WhyNotBoth*

      I work for an environmental/engineering/science firm and we do both. We have a pot luck and then an actual off site holiday party, normally in January.

    6. Zephy*

      The closest I ever came was a job with a nonprofit right after college – the “Christmas party” was part off-site celebration, part fundraising gala. People at my level weren’t even supposed to stay, but the performer they’d hired for entertainment threatened to refuse to perform if there weren’t enough people dancing, so they told us to stick around an extra hour just to fill the dance floor, while reminding us about the fraternization and alcohol policies. There was alcohol being served that we weren’t allowed to partake in (regulations surrounding permissible activities while “representing the organization,” i.e., wearing branded/uniform clothing), but our team leads and managers were – they got to dress up and be out of uniform, and by extension hobnob and get facetime with donors and sponsors.

    7. ThatGirl*

      Our department party was last week, ran 3-7 and included charcuterie, heavier appetizers, wine and beer (and soda/water). So it wasn’t *late* but it did keep going a fair amount after work hours. But that varies by department here. (I work for a medium-large household CPG brand.)

    8. Kes*

      I’m in consulting/tech, and we have a fancy party at an offsite venue in the evening for hours, with food, drinks and music

    9. Sharrbe*

      Me too. I wouldn’t enjoy after hours work parties. I mean I already spend 40 hours a week with co-workers (who I like), I don’t need to push it any longer than that.

    10. tink*

      My partner’s in tech and his is the after-work type. I work for a library and ours is the potluck style. When I worked in logistics we had a company-wide catered lunch and some giveaways (ranging from a free extra day of vacation to various hot electronics).

    11. Michelle*

      We used to have an after-hours offsite fancy party, but once we got to X amount of employees each location (6 in our city), we were told no more company wide party, but we could do our own party, no contribution from the company. So now it’s an immediately after work potluck.

      However, I found out by accident* that the landscape, housekeeping, IT, accounting and household staff of the owners get a catered lunch each year at a different location and it’s been happening every year since we were told to have our own party. Then housekeeping, accounting and IT get a second party thrown by their department directors, paid for on the company card.

      * I am good friends with a man who helps his uncle run a very popular historical location that is used for events and that’s where the party was this year. He called and asked why no one from my location was at the party and I was like “What party?”.

    12. JokeyJules*

      Environmental Consulting

      We have a bigger regional party (~40-50 people depending) at a nicer venue (rented out a wine bar, luxury suite at a sports game, etc) with an open bar and lots of good food. It’s usually 3-4 hours with an optional after-party at a nearby bar or something.

      Usually on the last thursday before the holiday we will do a small party with just our office staff, shut down a little early, the boss provides wine and beer and the main meal, staff will bring in an appetizer or dessert or game.

      I have a friend who works for the state courts in our state, and she had to pay $14 to attend her office party that was held during work hours. lots of variation.

    13. Nicki Name*

      When I worked in manufacturing, the yearly holiday party was a huge deal. Full dinner, tons of alcohol, held at a hotel across town where a lot of people going to the party would book a stay for the night.

      In tech, it’s usually a lighter dinner plus alcohol, held at a hip location, but still after hours.

      Except there was one tech company where the party was 2-5 on a weekday, employees only, no plus-ones. It was a terrible company in many other ways, but that was my favorite work holiday party ever. (Also my partner’s favorite work holiday party ever!)

    14. CheeryO*

      State government here – we have an optional but widely-attended luncheon (that we pay to attend) and an unofficial after-work happy hour that lasts well into the night. Swanky employer-sponsored parties are pretty common on the private side of our industry (engineering consulting), but those companies often do luncheons too.

    15. Rewe*

      I’m from the Nordics and here holiday parties are a boozy event that lasts till 4am. If I recall correctly I read an article that it’s the number 1 event where people cheat on their spouse. Culturally, “office Christmas party” is a way if saying you’ll have a crazy party. It is usually the one time a year people go clubbing so you’ll see some characters.
      This is regardless of field.

      The reality is then dependent on the field and work place. I work in a place with 10 000 employees so our parties are divided amongst departments. Our department includes the all c-level executives so our party is not crazy. It’s in the evening and includes a few drinks and a cash bar. Afterparty in a nightclub where highest management don’t show up. In previous place a fee of the senior employees would pass out at bars cause this as the only time they drank. Good times.

    16. Jane*

      Finance in the UK – lengthy after work party at a fancy venue, fully catered, open bar, free taxis home. Plus a separate lengthy, boozy department lunch (normally held at 3 or 4pm so you can keep drinking instead of going back to work). And office drinks every Friday in December that last late into the night. All fully paid for.

      Yes, we’re very old school….though I’ve given up alcohol this year and have been pleasantly surprised at the complete lack of push back on this, nobody cares I’m sober and drinking tonic water when everyone else is drinking.

    17. CircleBack*

      I did contracting work for a giant tech corporation that had a fancy off-site after-hours holiday party, and our smaller company that hired the contractors had a small get-together at a bar after-hours. Once I got out of tech, I had more potluck lunches (and my current company does a “lunch and leave” at a restaurant nearby, which is my new favorite holiday party style.

    18. RussianInTexas*

      Oil industry. Especially the large companies.
      When the money is good, Saturday parties with open bar, good food, comped hotel rooms, etc.
      When the money is tight, you get layed off.

    19. violet_04*

      I wonder the same thing. My office doesn’t even provide coffee anymore so no way they are springing on a holiday party. Individual teams will have little potlucks, but there is nothing done company-wide.

    20. Lalaith*

      Lessee… I worked at a bank that had a dinner party with dancing. That didn’t go late though (they did not exactly go all out when it came to spending on employees). Then there was a small tech company that had an evening party at our boss’s house (also didn’t go super late, he had kids). That company was acquired by a large international company. The one party I went to was after work, had booze but very little food, and we invited a bunch of our clients, so it was really more for them than us. I don’t know how late that went, I left after an hour or two because I was HUNGRY. Now I am at another small tech company and we had a nice lunch out, and got to leave early, last year. I do happen to know that Google has fancy blow-out evening holiday parties. So it really depends on the company.

    21. OhBehave*

      Small companies seem to be guilty of this. At my first job (sales/service), the owner had a bowling team. It was common for a select few of us to go watch them, drink beer and have pizza afterwards. More than once many of us came to work the next day so hungover it hurt. One Halloween, the party was held in the offices. Everclear punch was a common staple at these parties along with drunken hook-ups. Sadly there was a dive bar a block away that was ‘our’ bar. The boss lived on the lake shore so many parties took place there. Picture winding roads and a few boats for the drunks to drive.
      Christmas was a bit more professional because spouses attended. I look back on those years in amazement at how toxic that place really was. *shivers*

    22. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Everywhere in IT, in the late 90s and 2000s.

      Last party a workplace of mine had that was like that, was 12 years ago though.

    23. Third or Nothing!*

      I’m in the energy industry and our Christmas party is held at the CEO’s huge house. They cater dinner and have an open bar. Most years there is a game but that didn’t happen this year, maybe because we’ve doubled our staff and there were just too many people. When my husband and I left at 10 PM the party was still going strong.

    24. AliceUlf*

      Our agency used to have a fairly lavish holiday party at an historic golf course clubhouse. No open bar, but a full catered dinner and dancing with a locally-famous TV personality as DJ. It usually ran from 5:00 pm to midnight on a Saturday and probably cost upward of ten thousand dollars.

      When our previous executive director finally retired, the new ED revealed we’d been absolutely bleeding money for years and the party was permanently canceled. Now we get both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, paid, which most of us prefer!

    25. Parenthetically*

      My husband works for an engineering firm and they throw a great holiday party! His is this weekend, at a really nice venue, and we’re expecting a lot of low-key fun, a moderate amount of booze (two drink tickets per person — perfect), and delicious food. Last year there was a bartender and a huge buffet and the food was surprisingly delicious. This year the venue is even nicer.

    26. Bagpuss*

      UK – small legal firms.
      In my first job, we would close early and go out for lunch (paid for by the company) and then drinks and some form of entertainment. so one could then leave around 5 , or those who wanted, cold stay later .

      Current place we have tried various things, some lunch / afternoon, some evening – meal and transport covered by the company.We genuinely don’t judge anyone who chooses not to come.
      We also have a more casual lunch when we do our secret santa – we order pizza and take an extended lunch.
      My sister used to work for a big accountancy firm and they used to have a huge black tie event, with the whole thing, including hotels, paid for by the company.

    27. LKW*

      Construction firm. We did potlucks for holiday lunches, but the annual holiday party was a chance for spouses to attend and for everyone from the firm have a meal without concrete dust. The old guys would keep the younger guys in line, mostly because of spouses but also because they knew if people didn’t behave, there’d be no party the next year.

    28. Database Developer Dude*

      I can’t speak for individual teams, but as a general event, Booz Allen Hamilton has several holiday parties in the metropolitan Washington DC area. They’re generally very well attended, but as you have to pay for your +1, even if you are married to them, most don’t bring them. Other regions have their own holiday parties.

      That’s once per year, though, and you totally don’t need to go if you don’t want to.

    29. WorkingGirl*

      I work in a creative industry in the US. We do a dinner, but it’s usually right at the end of the work day. Last year I think we had a 5pm reservation- we took a company photo at 4, left the office by 4:30. This year I think we’re planning to leave the office at 5. It’s not too drawn out, like… I dunno, typical… “going out to a celebratory dinner” kind of thing. We order appetizers, we order entrees, maybe dessert, then we leave.

    30. NotAnotherManager!*

      Legal, particularly BigLaw, where they’re commonly held in a fancy hotel’s ballroom, completely with cocktail attire, live music, and good food. I know some departments also rent out a restaurant banquet room for a smaller team event as well.

      My mother worked for a regional company that sold office and industrial products, and they usually had an evening party as well. Not at lavish as law firm parties, but complete with catering, door prizes, and a DJ.

      I also once went as a college friend’s plus-one to one held at a DC-area museum. It was a really great space, and the caterer was excellent. I think he worked for a government contractor or an established technology company – can’t remember which.

    31. FiNancy*

      I work for a very large financial institution and we have ours at a 5 star hotel every year. The event itself is black tie with an open bar and a multi-course dinner. There is a photographer, games, dance floor, and lots of prizes. The absolute best part is that limos pick us up from the office and bring us home. It has to be the fanciest holiday party I have ever attended.

    32. Gatomon*

      I’m in telecom, and we have the after-work type. It includes a nice meal and some recognition awards, dancing and limited free drinks from the bar. It’s usually held at a large restaurant or hotel banquet center.

      We also have a department party that is more low-key and includes food, games and general not-working for extended periods.

    33. Brrrrr*

      Manufacturing, in Canada. Our party is on Saturday night, totally offsite at a nice venue, with a great meal followed by a funny game or two, prizes (gift cards), then DJ and dance. Professional photographer and also a casual photo booth. Dress code is business casual but most people dress up pretty nice. At least half our employees attend so with their guests we wind up with around 250 people. A few hardcore partiers stay until the end (1 pm?) and some carry the party on to a bar or hotel room. But I would say most are done before midnight. I have to say, we do a nice enough party that no one seems to mind giving up a weekend evening for it.

    34. Impska*

      The biggest and best work Christmas party I’ve ever been to was for a grocery store. I was a cashier and under 21. They had free booze, dinner, and dancing. They also gave us gifts. There was a host of employees under the drinking age, but no one blinked about any of us drinking. Most of the age 25+ employees left immediately after dinner, and the younger employees stayed and drank/danced until midnight.

      It really set me up for disappointment. I have never been to a better Christmas party since.

    35. Fellow Boot Fancier*

      Hospitality!!! We are naturally outgoing professional partiers and then you add that the Sales Team is exceptionally outgoing….Yeah, after work drinks at a local bar are pretty common, any available staff, and the Employee Gala is just that, a Gala. On the other hand, we also don’t like to make people feel uncomfortable and tend towards discretion so anyone who opts out of alcohol in general only has to opt out once and we register ‘so & so prefers Sprite with a splash of vanilla soda when we go out,’ while a one-off ‘because I’m driving your drunk butt home’ is met with ‘You rock! Can I buy you a non-alcoholic drink ash a think ya?” (Slurring implied) We may be inebriated, but we trend as happy, polite drunks. It’s an art.

  3. The Unbeliever*

    Alison I think you made good points addressing the office politics aspects of holiday parties in this piece. I also thought your explanation about dominant culture for the person worried about their Christmas tree recently was good. I’m an atheist, who is generally not out at work, and I don’t do secular Christmas or any religious holidays. I’m happy to leave those for the religious folks & respect their beliefs and traditions. I do draw the line at holiday parties though. I have never attended one. Would you tweak any of your advice in those two pieces for me or people in similar situations?

    1. IL JimP*

      I think we’ve got to suck it up and go, if it helps think of it less as a holiday party and more as a work team building party. Stick around for an hour and go home

      1. Amy Sly*

        And there’s a reason it was so easy for these parties to get renamed “Holiday” instead of “Christmas” parties — they’re far more about just having a party at a time of year when lots of people have parties than anything to do with Christmas. No one is likely to be saying prayers or asking you to sing Christmas carols; the most Christmasy you’re likely to get is the radio tuned to the all-Christmas hits channel. (Which granted, can be pretty hellish.)

    2. The Unbeliever*

      Interesting points of view. Do any other people who don’t celebrate Christian holidays want to weigh in? Do you feel uncomfortable at these parties for reasons other than all the glorious social awkwardness discussed on this site?

      1. Elenia*

        Being a minority in a majority culture in every way, trust me, you just get used to it. As long as no one is talking Jesus, I can roll with it!

      2. LKW*

        Most of the holiday parties I’ve attended have ended up being in February or later – so there was an immediate detachment from religion. But also, every company I’ve worked for, even the most conservative, placed no emphasis on the religious aspect – the focus was always to have a good meal and just enjoy the evening together.

      3. RussianInTexas*

        Atheist here, grew up celebrating New Years instead.
        Never been to an explicitly Christmas-y company party, it’s always been a generic holiday party. No prayers, or carols, or anything of the sort.
        Granted, I’ve always worked in companies with really high immigrant and non-Christian contingent.
        So, I suck it up and go, because it’s work, basically.

      4. Smithy*

        As a non-Christian, everywhere I’ve worked – the holiday parties have usually been primarily focused on celebrating with co-workers at the end of the year and kind reminders to spend time with family during the season. Some parties have been held in places that are more “forward” on the decorations (i.e. presence of a Christmas tree, but mostly neutral in theme), but the primary focus has always been an “end of year celebrate with co-workers”.

        I would also add that where I work, given it’s overall desired culture – if I said that based on my beliefs, attending the party would make me uncomfortable – that would almost immediately have me get roped into larger conversations about my faith and whether I wanted to be involved in party planning to ensure better inclusivity.

        Since many office holiday parties are pretty non-religious I would propose the following. 1) Choose not to attend and site a scheduling conflict or 2) attend the next time you have the chance and evaluate how it makes you feel. If you go with #2 and the end result is that it does rub against your beliefs and makes you uncomfortable – then I’d personally ask what kind of personal capital you feel is worth expending to push back. Do you want to speak up and potentially draw attention from your management, HR, events planning? Even if the feedback is received positively and with the spirit of change, is this how you want to be engaged at work?

        If your decision is just that this is not for you – then I’d skip the party due to a scheduling conflict and make sure I show up at other office events such as company picnic, department happy hours, etc. But I don’t think there’s a way to gracefully skip most office’s holiday parties due to your beliefs without getting drawn into a much deeper conversation.

      5. Will W.*

        I was raised Buddhist and am currently nonreligious, and yes, I feel some discomfort at the reminder of Christian dominance in the U.S., even at work holidays that don’t have much religious content beyond some Christmas music and red-and-green decorations. Not enough discomfort that it outweighs the benefits of going for me though.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I grew up celebrating New Year, in an atheist country, where everyone celebrated New Year.

      I just go to all the holiday parties and assume that “holidays” include New Year! I haven’t been to an actual religious-themed Christmas party, other than in the church that I used to attend with my kids. If there was a Hanukkah party, I’d likely be happy to be part of it, because keeping in touch with my roots etc etc. But I’ve never been to or heard of one.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Ours is billed as a Holiday Party, but it’s really the owners’ annual thank you to the employees. Tons of delicious food and drink, CEO makes a speech (he’s a good speaker and keeps it short), then we hit the dance floor or mingle. The majority of employees attend. The company will bring in coworkers from other locations so we all have a chance to meet in person. No religion or secular Santa Claus; just an enjoyable evening.

      1. MoopySwarpet*

        This is how ours typically are, too. With the exception of the boss being good at speeches. ;) Sometimes there will be some sort of grab bag or small token gift that might have a seasonal item in it (ie peppermint bark, cookie scented candle, etc.), but overall, it’s just a social mingle.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Any “holiday” party I’ve ever been to has not celebrated any specific holiday or religion. It’s basically an end of the year excuse to celebrate, and for some, recognize employees’ hard work. Assuming you don’t have anything against a general celebration, I don’t see an issue with the “suck it up and go” part of Alison’s advice.

    6. pcake*

      I’m somewhere between an atheist and an agnostic, have never belonged to a religion, and I was raised by atheist parents. I’ve never had a problem going to holiday parties, and none of the so-called Christmas parties I’ve attended in my 50+ years ever had anything religious about them.

  4. Platypus Enthusiast*

    If it’s a potluck, make sure you sign up ahead of time and not bring cheap rolls! We recently had an office potluck and I saw a package of regular rolls and Hawaiian rolls sitting next to each other and started giggling uncontrollably.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Hawaiian rolls is how we AAM readers are going to recognize each other at work potlucks.

          The new secret handshake.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I legit just made a reference to cheap rolls in an unrelated online group. We shall see who catches on…

      1. Platypus Enthusiast*

        I brought hummus and pita chips because I’m not thoroughly acquainted with roll hierarchy and didn’t want to be disrespect any roll connoisseurs out there.

  5. Blue Bird*

    My boss is great (an ideal boss in almost every aspect), but she has one flaw: she subscribes to the Liz Lemon school of “parties are mandatory!” She was seriously annoyed when one employee left the last office holidays party after a mere 2.5 hours. I was there for five hours and got a little side eye. (Being an introvert, this sucks).

    I don’t know what it is about parties. She’s usually so considerate, level-headed, empathic, and direct. This all flies out of the window when it’s mandatory fun time.

    1. Stormfeather*

      There is… I will not say “no way” because sometimes when things are fun I’ll surprise myself and stick around, but CLOSE to no way I would stay anywhere near five hours at an office work party. I’d be struggling to stay an hour probably TBH.

      1. Blue Bird*

        Some of my mid-twenties colleagues apparently partied until 6 am.

        Which, no. No way could I ever pull that off. As it is I think I deserve a medal for sticking around until 11 pm.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          OMG if I partied until 6 AM I’d be heading home right as my toddler woke up. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    2. J*

      Oh wow. That’s horrible. I start getting anxious and stressed after the first fifteen minutes. I’m actively pissed off after an hour. One time I was at an event where the Boss just kept going on and on, making jokes, telling stupid stories, and completely oblivious to the fact that this thing was approaching three hours and people were started to get angry. Seriously, what is wrong with these people?
      Five hours? No. Just no. Not happening. You want me somewhere for five hours, you better be paying me for it.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        My wedding didn’t even last that long. From ceremony start time to “get out of here so we can clean up” was under 5 hours.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Heck yeah! My wedding ceremony was at 11 AM and we were out the door by 3 PM. It was glorious.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        ^ update: nm, I already saw the 6PM to 6AM.

        Only time I’ve been in the same room with coworkers for that long during these hours was when we had a major system rollout and a group of us had to stay in the war room all night for support. And then we all got a day of comp time (iirc).

        1. Diamond*

          6pm to 6am??? What on earth. That is not even normal for a non-work party. They’ve got some serious staying power.

      2. Blue Bird*

        I think my boss sees it as a successful party if people leave after midnight, so at least 6+ hours (after a full day of work). I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds this overbearing

    1. Box of Kittens*

      This caught my eye too! I’ve become the office party organizer and it is so nice for that work to get recognized.

  6. Chronic Overthinker*

    I love this list but I need some advice. We’ve had one office party already this month located about 1.5 hours away from where I live in the middle of the week. I declined stating car issues. Fast forward to this weekend and car issues are still a problem. We have another event at the same location this weekend. I have only been in the company for five months. Do I state that car issues are still a problem and not attend or figure something out and try to go? I do love this job and am grateful for it, but my wages and everything else can’t seem to justify a party that I have to drive 3 hours round trip for. I can’t just nip in for a bit and then leave. This would be a costly investment of both time and money. Thoughts?

    1. Mid*

      I’d skip it, but make an effort to participate in other ways (are there birthday celebrations? A holiday celebration that’s in the office?) so people don’t get the impression that you don’t like them.

      It’s a bit silly, and there are many legitimate reasons to not attend parties, including car issues, childcare, religious reasons, etc. But it can still read as strange/unfriendly/aloof if people don’t have other context for you. It also depends on how big your company is and how many people you interact with regularly. If you regularly interact with a majority of people, it’s probably less of a big deal than if you’re a department of 1 and rarely see anyone outside of your department.

      But if you’re worried about being new and being perceived as Not Friendly or something, I’d make an effort to participate whenever possible, without a 3 hour round trip drive.

      1. Chronic Overthinker*

        We have 3 offices (soon to be 4) and about 25 employees. I rarely see the host(s) of the party except for an occasional videoed business meeting, so that’s why I am am having a tough time with this. I am the “Director of First Impressions” for all the offices, so I interact with them as needed, but strictly professionally. Part of me wants to go and make a day of it, even if I have to spend part of my paycheck to do it. Part of me wants to wait until the holidays have settled down and try for the next major holiday (Spring Equinox).

    2. your favorite person*

      Skip. BUT if you think it’s important you go, maybe you can carpool?
      Also, why two office parties in two weeks? That’s strange.

      1. Chronic Overthinker*

        There was an “company dinner” last week. This weekend is more of a “holiday party.” Other support staff chose not to attend the “company dinner” due to scheduling issues so I don’t feel bad for not attending the previous one. I think the host felt bad about the company dinner and wanted to provide a day where more folks could attend and not have to worry about getting to work the following day. That’s why I’m torn. I don’t want to decline twice and be considered impolite, but I do have to think about my own finances and what other things are happening that weekend too. It’s so frustrating!

        1. Marthooh*

          Oh lord. This sounds like an EVERYONE LOVES PARTIES! person: EVERYONE LOVES PARTIES! so let’s have a party next Tuesday! Aw, too bad not everyone could make it so let’s have another party this Thursday, because EVERYONE LOVES PARTIES!

          If I were you, I would decline again. Don’t encourage that person to believe that EVERYONE LOVES PARTIES! and this was just a matter of conflicting schedules and you will happily spend time and money going to the office party because EVERYONE LOVES PARTIES!

    3. Amy Sly*

      Agreed, you can beg off and even with the same excuse. You may want to add in a quick “but at least the car is getting fixed in January,” just so it’s a bit more clear the car problems are real and not just your built in excuse, but yeah, normal people understand that new employees might have a backlog of problems/debts and are limited in what they can do.

    4. Ashley*

      If you have a positive relationship with a co-worker you could consider asking for a ride. Traveling in a car with others and asking for rides can be fraught with issues so be mindful of who you ask but it is worth seeing of there is someone you could ask.

    5. Ama*

      Yeah, skip it. For me three hours of travel time in one day is excessive for a party unless it is family or close friends (and even then it needs to be something pretty big like a major birthday, wedding, or other life event).

      If you’d been there a bit longer I’d suggest mentioning to the party organizers that the length of the commute makes attending the party really difficult for you (if there’s some other option for where it could be held), but I also wouldn’t blame you if you want to wait until you get a better feel for the workplace before you offer any constructive criticism.

    6. tink*

      We did a long commute party once and honestly I’d never do it again and I’d never suggest anyone else do it either. Car issues are legitimate and so is “I’m not going that far for a work event unless I’m being compensated for my time and car expenses.” (Don’t actually say that, but… it’s valid.)

    7. Observer*

      If there is any way you could carpool, it might be worth it. In fact, I’d suggest trying to carpool even if you are pretty sure that it’s not going to work out. This is not my usual style but all things considered, including your position, making it extra clear that you really CAN not make it would probably be useful to you.

      And what’s with people who plan parties like this? I get that they are trying to be nice but still. Even without car issues, adding that kind of commute time is nuts.

    8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It’s unreasonable to expect you to attend a party with a 3 hour round trip. I’d just speak to your boss and tell them that you can’t go due to the location – no specific reasons needed. Do you live far from the office and the party is in the opposite direction or something? I can’t imagine an office having a party that would be so far from the actual office.

      1. Chronic Overthinker*

        There are multiple offices. Two of which are closer to the party site. My office is the one that is 1.5 hours away.

  7. Jellyfish*

    At a former job, the Christmas party was held at the corporate headquarters. There were several large satellite offices, and everyone was expected to drive the 3-5 hours to corporate on a Saturday, attend the party, stay in a hotel, and drive home Sunday. Of course we were responsible for paying for our own gas and lodging, but they also expected us to stay in the fancy, expensive hotel where the company books a block of rooms.
    Not happening! I never went, and that definitely did not help my reputation there.

    1. J*

      Big huge can fulla NOPE. If my boss wants me to do overnight travel, I’d better be getting per diem and lodging expensed. That’s a business related travel and it is NOT coming out of pocket!

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I was reading this like “OK good, the company provided hotel rooms” and then got to the part where it had to be out of your pocket and in an expensive hotel… Nope. That’s like paying an annual fee for working there. Just no.

    3. Third or Nothing!*

      WOW. My company has several locations and gathers everyone together for the Christmas party too. The difference is it’s treated as regular business travel with everything expensed – mileage, the hotel, food, all of it.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Can’t say I blame you – I wouldn’t have gone either, especially since they weren’t reimbursing you for gas and lodging. I probably wouldn’t have gone if they were paying for it. I’m not giving up the majority of my weekend for an office holiday party.

  8. Amber Rose*

    Re: Rule 2 – If you are upper management, and you say you aren’t going to the party, please don’t change your mind three days before the party. It’s very frustrating for the people trying to ensure there are enough seats and food for everyone. Actually, this applies to everyone. Don’t do this. Also don’t decide last minute to bring a +1 if you previously said you were going solo. We were in a frantic scramble to accommodate all the people who did that this year, and one of them was the president. :/

    As for Rule #8, that depends on office culture. Weirdly, people started treating me better after I spent 3 hours drunkenly doing internet dances and cracking myself up, because I am very professional at work and I guess they didn’t think I could relax? I’ve had a few comments along those lines, anyway.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I disagree with your take on #8. If my colleagues are going to judge me because I choose not to get trashed at a party then we’re never going to be compatible on a personal level and I’m okay with that. I’m not changing who I am to fit in with a bunch of people who think it’s not possible to have fun without alcohol. I’ve worked in a company where happy hours were frequent and many would get trashed all the time. But those same people also let me be if I didn’t feel like drinking or only wanted one.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I never said change who you are. That is who I am, I love parties and drinking, I just don’t behave like I’m at a party when I’m at work. I can relax, I can have fun, I love being a weirdo, I just don’t feel like it’s appropriate in an office setting.

        My point wasn’t to behave like someone you aren’t, my point was just that you don’t always need to treat a work party like a work day. If you relax your work face a little and become known as the person who dances funny when they drink, that doesn’t automatically make you not the person who is the excel expert or whatever.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          You stated that the rule about drinking was dependent on office culture and that’s what I’m disagreeing with…If you choose to drink at an office party that’s cool, but people shouldn’t feel obligated to drink because of office culture if it’s not something they want to do.

  9. Nope*

    Where I work there are multiple parties. We have a dept party during the work day, a gathering at our Corporate office after work, and then a formal holiday party on a weekend. I always attend our department party, attend the gathering at Corporate every other year, and have never attended our formal holiday party. No one has ever said boo to me about it, and since I’m not a corporate ladder climber, could care less.

    1. Kes*

      Oh man, we had a department party end of November, an ugly sweater party early December that I missed because I was away at a conference, our company work party on Saturday, a project team event with our client on Monday, and another party by our women’s group today which I’m dreading at this point and would skip except I agreed to talk a bit at the party about the conference, even though we have another presentation on it later this week…
      I’m tempted to skip anyways claiming I’m not feeling well (which is true) and leave it to my coworker to talk about the conference. Too many parties, but I also am trying to network and climb the ladder, so I don’t want to skip too much (and I legitimately do like my coworkers and am happy to hang out with them to a certain extent… we just have a lot of social events here, sometimes it’s a little much).

  10. Aggretsuko*

    These office party things make me laugh.
    We are (a) not having a party, or allowed to have a party. It’s an “advance.” Which means we have to do “work” and sit through some hourlong presentation on health and wellness and “interact.” (b) These are during lunch, and (c) usually last 2 hours except for the “advance” presentation this year.
    I haven’t had an actual party outside of work hours in this industry for at least over a decade. We do not have much fun and our current leader is kinda seeming like an enemy of fun this year especially.

      1. StellaBella*

        It is the opposite of ‘retreat’. Basically it means an offsite leadership and culture development session where the reason for taking the leadership team offsite for two-days is to advance, refresh, refocus, etc. Once had a boss who insisted on this word, too, all about the new, the now, etc. :/

      2. Ama*

        I might figure out a way to mention this to my boss, who has given this name to the professional development activities she’s forcing every department leader to come up with for their department. She thinks she came up with it on her own. (She’s also really gung ho on professional development that requires everyone but her to take time out of their overloaded schedules.)

    1. CountryLass*

      I used to get this at one place. It was mandatory to attend, it was a crappy dinner and then a presentation on how we did this year, what we need to do next year and some awards, then the drinking started. One year I got pinned into my seat by one chap whilst his friend did some sort of weird lap-dance type thing on the basis that “You said you didn’t want to dance, so I’ll dance for you!” I wriggled free and spent the rest of the evening glued to the side of my male coworker who taught kick-boxing on the side. He went hunting for them to point out EXACTLY how inappropriate that was but we couldn’t find them.

  11. Veryanon*

    I used to work for a company that went all-out on holiday parties – every year there was a theme, it was catered, and alcohol flowed like water. One year it was a Western theme, complete with a mechanical bull. I must admit, it was pretty funny watching all the drunk people getting tossed.

  12. Mainely Professional*

    Every year I sort of regret and then instantly do not regret that I work on a fully remote team and never have an office Xmas party. At Old Job we would have a party at a fancy bar where the org bought rounds of drinks and appetizers and people would get a little dressed up. Fun, no inappropriate behavior.

    What weirdly annoys me about being remote…is that for whatever reason, everyone on the small team I work on knows everyone’s birthday and always says “happy birthday,” to them on our Slack. Every year. Except mine. I know because you can search Slack!

    Multiple years of “Well, it was my birthday over the weekend so that was fun,” or, “It was my birthday yesterday so I went out for dinner,” has still not resulted in a single cake emoji for me. I find this obscurely annoying and it hurts my feelings in the weirdest way. I don’t care about that stuff at all, usually.

    1. Mirve*

      I wonder if the others have their birthdays in some sort of reminder system (company liste,
      facebook, google, etc) so that it is not that someone is independently noting their birthdays and remembering to say something, but that they get a prompt of some sort.

      1. Mainely Professional*

        Nah. We don’t have any of that stuff. Maybe FB, I don’t really use that or have my birthday on it. It’s from my coworkers’ long friendship. It just obscurely annoys me that no ones noticed over the years has thought “Oh here we are saying happy birthday to Fergus, and Mainely is saying it but…hmm I don’t know when Mainely’s birthday is.” It’s dumb. I’m an adult I can get over it.

    2. Lyra Silvertongue*

      Hey, I am right there with you. Been at my job for several years. I have signed countless birthday cards for others and never received a card for myself. I have overheard many group sings of “Happy Birthday” in other corners of the office, and never had anyone sing to me (not actually mad about THAT but a cake would be nice!). We aren’t supposed to admit we want those things, but it hurts to feel like the one person whose birthday goes by unnoticed!

      1. Elenia*

        You HAVE to be really forthright about this. Most of the time it’s not malicious it’s just stupidity. I would absolutely just be like “Hey, it’s my birthday next week, can we get a cake?” In some years I even brought the stupid cake in myself – paid for by the company – and said “I just wanted everyone to celebrate with me, and it’s an excuse for cake!” There is nothing wrong with asking, provided you do it with a smile and a cheery demeanor.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I hate being the center of attention, but if everyone had their birthday acknowledged but me, I’d be low key pissed too.

  13. CountryLass*

    I spent some time at last years party talking to a Director from a different department, and then we found out a puddle of vomit next to the table we were sitting at… Neither of us were very happy! They had an open bar and bottles of wine on the tables.

    He was extremely drunk, I was quite tipsy and I struggled to answer him when he kept asking why I said I wanted to be busier, especially as I’m not commission-based… I couldn’t think of a polite way to say “Um, because my job depends on new business and I like to take pride in my work? And it’s good business?”

  14. J*

    Rule 8(a): Check your dress code.
    I once went to a party at work during business hours. Everyone was wearing slacks, nice sweaters, polo shirts, Oxfords, etc… And then one guy walks in wearing a distressed t-shirt and khaki shorts. People noticed. Just because someone says it is a ‘party’ doesn’t mean you show up in your Saturday-morning-bumming-around-the-house clothes. IIRC, nobody published an official dress code for the event but he was clearly out of touch with the office culture and norms.

  15. Goliath Corp.*

    “if your significant other isn’t enthused about attending, let them off the hook!”

    Omg, PLEASE. I always get dragged to my partner’s Christmas parties and it’s f***ing miserable for me. Apparently I’m expected to make an appearance, but it feels like I have to be some 1950s wife who can charm the bosses. I’m putting my foot down next year.

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      If it helps, that expectation goes both ways. I’m expected to bring my husband to certain work functions and have him charm the bosses too. It’s not just women that have to play that role.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      I hear you. I got myself off the hook of having to attend my husband’s work parties. I went to one where the bosses went on and on about how good things are going. then they went on to say that they were doing a new plant in X city with no financing, thus cash was tight, so expect cutbacks. They really spent a lot of time talking in circles about the money.
      Then one boss thought I was just another ordinary spouse at the meeting. He asked me what I thought about the presentation. I looked him dead in the eye and said, “It’s nice that this plant is doing so well that you can build another plant with cash. Rather than going the traditional route of financing a capital project so as to not restrict your cash flow for current operations.”
      My husband was told that while I was welcome to attend future meetings they would understand if I couldn’t.

  16. Holiday Party Etiquette Question*

    Our office holiday party happens later in January and tickets cost $25-$35 each per employee/attendee (if you want to buy a ticket for a significant other). Does this mean that rule #1 about trying to at least stop by doesn’t apply? I feel bad about completely missing it by I really don’t have an extra $50 to spend on my husband and myself, plus a babysitter…

    1. CheeryO*

      I think that’s a legitimate reason to skip it, and I’m sure you wouldn’t be the only one. If your office does any cheaper or free team building events throughout the year, I’d just make an effort to show your face at some of those so you’re not the person who opts out 100 percent of the time.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If you have to pay to attend, that’s not a work party, that’s just a frigging money grab. Don’t waste your money, yuck.

      If it conflicts with your schedule or your pocket book, ef.that.shht.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Unless you work for the government – my spouse always pays for his holiday party (which is usually wings and some activity his team picks) because they are not allowed to use government funds for their party. Some government agencies will put on a nice party with a ticket fee to cover the costs, not as a money grab.

        1. AskAnEmployee*

          But if you work for the government, it’s nigh impossible to get fired so skipping the holiday party wouldn’t be an issue.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            It’s not impossible to be fired from the government, the process is just more formalized. And you can be penalized for skipping a party in other ways than being fired. You can be given crap assignments, you can be farmed out to another team you don’t want to work with, you can have a petty boss who takes it personally that you didn’t go, just like in private industry. Being fired is not the only way you can be retaliated against.

            Besides, I was just pointing out that there are people who do have to pay for their own holiday parties for reasons other than the employer being money-grubbing.

  17. MirrorFlight*

    Party question! (Maybe Ask the Readers?) We’ve talked on here before about how party planning often falls disproportionately to the young women of the office, especially when there’s not an official committee or point person tasked with the job. How can a manager/office take proactive steps to ensure this doesn’t happen in their department? Have you ever set up a system that’s worked to combat this problem?

    1. Nanani*

      Appointing an official committee/rota seems obvious.
      I worked in an office that did this by drawing random lots, and whoever was on the organizing committee for parties last year was exempt from the next year’s draw.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        It doesn’t always work. We have a social committee and us women-folk still end up doing all the work. I’m not sure what the point of the committee is.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It needs to be someone’s job, it shouldn’t be a volunteer type of thing. Just like housekeeping tasks. And if there’s nobody that it fits into their job description, then opt out of having a party all together.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      If it can be staffed out, staff it out. Hire a party coordinator to handle, if no one in the office has a passion for event planning (some people really enjoy it). At my office, we have an event-planning team for client-/work-related services, so they handle the office parties, too, but outsource it, if there wasn’t. I’d also be ticked to get stuck on a party-planning committee (for a party I’m unlikely to attend) on top of my actual work.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        We have an event planning team, who are a mixture of male and female volunteers, and who work in different departments.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Our event planning team is not volunteer – they are full-time employees who are paid to handle our in-house professional events. They manage conference rooms, catering orders, professional events, smaller conferences, and audio/visual needs. They also do company morale events as part of their job, including the holiday party. It’s a job requirement for which they are paid, not a volunteer extra.

    4. AskAnEmployee*

      It falls on the employee to simply refusing to do it. Just tell your manager that you’ve got actual work to do and won’t be able to plan the holiday party. Expecting middle management types to actually manage is like trying to get water from squeezing a rock.

  18. Richard Hershberger*

    My one addendum to Alison’s advice is add to the part about chatting up your boss, also chat up your boss’s boss. That way grandboss knows boss’s people were there. For most of these things, at that point you can slip out the back and get on with your life. Being seen by those two people is the reason for going in the first place. All the stuff about getting to know people in other departments? Fine, for some people. I am both introverted and socialize easily one on one. If I interact with Karen in HR, I will also chat with her sociably. This comes far more naturally and easily to me than chatting with her in a crowded noisy room.

    1. AskAnEmployee*

      Eh, I prefer to let my numbers speak for themselves. If I have to brown nose my bosses on my own time in order to be successful, then I’m in the wrong job or profession. I could care less about impressing “Karen in HR” or some VP that’s not going to remember my name in an hour.

  19. Robin*

    #6 – That’s me.
    This year, because my habit is to arrive early, I wound up helping the organizers check people in and hand out drink tickets. So much easier than trying to make small talk in a crowded noisy room & you get to see everyone and talk to everyone a little bit.

    Speaking of being an introvert at a party (or seminars, classes, etc) – a strategy I’ve learned is to get there early, or as near to the start time as possible. For me it’s easier to already be there and have other people arrive around me, rather than walk into an already crowded room. Think of cooking a frog…you put it in cold water and let the water warm up around and it doesn’t notice, but if you put it in a pot of boiling water, it will notice and rebel.

  20. Close Bracket*

    There are exactly two things I like about my current job:
    1) occasional wfh allowed
    2) no holiday party (or any party, that I can tell, but there could be something in the spring)

  21. Rebecca*

    My husband’s office party is always a Friday night at 7:30pm. I hate his office with a passion and this doesn’t help, but my solution is to buy tickets to something more fun well in advance. Weird how it happens every single year!

    1. AskAnEmployee*

      Having “plans ahead of time” is solid. I always “volunteer” at a non profit during my work holiday party. I’ve been on “the board of directors” for a small, made up organization for the past two years now!

  22. Master Bean Counter*

    I have my first real after hours holiday party this Friday night in years. Being higher in the food chain than I was last time I did one of these things, I’ve got to show up for at least a couple of hours.
    If anything interesting happens I will report back.

  23. Guacamole Bob*

    Is this a good spot to mention that last week I went to my wife’s company holiday party… without her?

    My wife works at a law firm that does a big fancy family-oriented party every year – a guy who does a magic show and balloon animals for the kids, one of the junior associates dresses up as Santa and gives out presents (the receptionist puts a lot of work into choosing gifts for the kids), really great catered food, etc. My kids adore it, but this year my wife had to travel for work and was out of town the day of the party, so I took them and they had a blast. I know enough of her coworkers and their families by this point that I had enough people to talk to, and overall I had a pretty nice time.

    Not the typical holiday party experience, based on the AAM comments section.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      That sounds fun! I wish my company had more family-oriented stuff. They do rent out a suite at the ballpark every year for Family Night, but it’s at night, as the name implies, and I can’t bring my very young daughter without causing a scene. My coworkers nag me every year to bring her and every year I have to explain the difficulties of raising a spirited child. Believe me when I say that no one will have a good time when Miss Feistypants starts having a meltdown from being up way past her bedtime.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        My kids are early elementary now – it was much more stressful to take them as toddlers, and I wouldn’t have done it alone! Now they can join in the gang of kids running around the office with balloon swords and I don’t have to keep nearly as close tabs on them.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          I look forward to the day when I can just turn my kid loose while I do my own thing. But that day will probably also be the day she stops wanting snuggles so I won’t wish too hard for the years to pass quickly.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      My employer has something similar, but it’s usually in the summer and has outdoor games/bounce houses/etc. It’s casual and well-attended.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        During the day? That’s the big reason why I don’t bring my daughter to company events. They’re never during the day.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Man that would be nice. I could totally bring my daughter if everything didn’t happen after her bedtime.

  24. New Job So Much Better*

    We’re having a party for corporate employees 4-7 today, no guests. Each department and branch also has their own small party. Nothing mandatory, very casual and nice.

  25. purpleparrots*

    Allison, I just have to say I’m so happy for you and the exposure/recognition you’re getting on a national and international level – I feel like it has really ramped up in 2019! You have worked really hard, and are such a valuable resource. Seeing people recognize is wonderful and well deserved!!

  26. Observer*

    Most of this is solid “common sense”. It’s kind of sad that anyone needs to write such an article. But, as a pragmatist, I’m very glad that Alison did write it.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      For people who are new to the workplace or to office environments, having some basics like this are really helpful. Or for those of us who were raised by people with weird ideas about office politics – I know that people on one side of my family would actively advocate against #3 (particularly other departments perceived as part of the corporate machinery) and #4 (very us versus The Man mentality). I think “common sense” really depends on who taught you about professional norms and how in/out of touch with the current ones.

    2. AskAnEmployee*

      What’s sad is that employers expect employees to give up what little free time they have in order to attend “holiday parties”. Employment should be a business transaction – plain and simple. My job is to accomplish x by such and such a date in exchange for an agreed upon compensation. Let’s not act like coworkers are anything more than cubicle mates.

      Employees need to stand up for themselves instead of voluntarily bending over and taking it from the man with these dog-and-pony shows.

  27. Anony Pony*

    My husbands company does an annual party somewhere around the state and all employees and spouses/SO’s are expected to attend. The company pays for a very nice meal (menu picked out for us in advance with a couple options, much like a wedding or some such) , and free flowing wine that he personally pairs with the options, and usually of good quality as he considers himself a connoisseur. He also gives each person one bar drink ticket, then we’re on our own if we want more.

    This is also the night he hands out the annual bonus (not huge but not insignificant either) Once year, the weather was atrocious and several from the other side of the state were unable to attend and they didn’t get their bonuses until March/April of the following year as “punishment” for not attending. He holds those envelopes till the very end of the evening so everyone just sucks it up and goes if they can. Several coworkers get plastered and I keep wondering why the owner allows/promotes that to happen and when that will bite him in the rear.

    So glad we do a non-alcohol involved office luncheon & gift swap at my work and don’t have to worry about any of that.

    1. AskAnEmployee*

      Holding your hubby’s bonus check is awful. I don’t know why some employers are so obsessed with the idea that employees should spend time together during the holidays. It’s like, “Dude, your my cubicle mate-not my cousin”.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Holding bonus checks sucks. Ours are paid by the same method as paychecks and expense reimbursement – if you have direct deposit, your bonus gets direct deposited as well, and our CFO really hate cutting any more paper checks.

  28. fisharenotfriends*

    Does anyone have any advice on handling a party where they expect you to get drunk?

    The company I joined hosts their holiday about a month away from the holiday every year. This year and last have been on my birthday. Since I’m the youngest by about 15-20 years, and it’s my birthday, I’ll have shots ordered for me and so forth and look like a poor sport if I don’t partake. I’m not the only one drinking by any means, and I can handle my liquor rather well, but IMO shots aren’t work appropriate in any situation. I’ve been asked in the past to participate more so I do have to attend.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Can you talk to the bar tender and tell them that anyone buying shots for you they need to pour just water? That’s the non-confrontational way out. Alternatively, just say thank you, but you don’t want it. It’s ok to be a poor sport.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      I might try to take some of them and rope other people into sharing others. And obviously not drink any other liquor at the party!

    3. Smithy*

      Provided the shots aren’t of the sugary-cocktail variety – and just your vodka/tequila style – honestly, I’d just spill/dribble on the way to my mouth. Most bars where shots happen get “wet” enough that a spilled shot, or half a spilled shot, of vodka won’t be noticeable on the bar or on most clothing.

      Do you perhaps work at a place with some problematic norms if you can’t push back on alcohol consumption – yes. But if this is overall a rare occasion and getting to the bar tender to request shots of water is too logistically challenging – then just start spilling.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I just say “LOL I don’t do shots.” and people laugh or if they don’t, I say “No, seriously I’ll puke, who’s gonna clean that up?”

      Also try some ridiculous stories, even if they’re exaggerated, that has worked in my favor too in the heavy drinking crowds.

      You’re still drinking with them, if they’re bent out of shape that you say no to shots, they suck. It’s not fun to work someone towards alcohol poisoning.

      Or if you do feel better faking it, take it in your mouth and spit it back out when nobody is looking.

    5. AskAnEmployee*

      As a recovering alcoholic, your comment hits home. Even back in my drinking days, I detested the thought of getting shloshed with colleagues or clients. There are a few ways to handle this, depending on how you think your coworkers will react.
      1) Say you’re on medication and can’t drink
      2) Be a designated driver or “have plans” after the event which require you to drive
      3) Order a soft drink and ask the bartender to serve it in whisky glass
      4) Be the person that gets the shots from the bar and have the bartender fill yours with Coke/Sprite

      If your coworkers have problems with 1 or 2, you might consider getting a new job.

    6. AskAnEmployee*

      Also, since you’re young, see my advice in the bottom of the comments to find out how I have missed every after work social event for the past two years – with my manager’s blessing!

    7. Elan Morin Tedronai*

      I don’t have any advice (sorry!) but I’m posting here so I can come back to this later. You see, I have some Japanese clients and we’re bringing them out for dinner later… And yes, if you know Japanese culture, you’ll know why this is so dreadful. Ye gods and little fishies. :(

  29. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Best way to survive an office party? Have an ironclad reason to miss it that also makes everyone think you’re a good person. I missed the party last week because I was out of town taking care of my mom after she had major surgery.

    1. AskAnEmployee*

      Nice! I’m missing this year’s because I’m “volunteering at women’s health clinic”. By that of course, I mean “binge watching Netflix and binge eating cheap Chinese food”.

  30. The Green Lawintern*

    I’m literally reading this while trying to figure out if I can get away with dipping into the holiday party for just five minutes before sneaking back to my desk.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      I did. Our party was over my lunch and I helped set up, stuck my head in for less than 10 minutes and then left for my lunch hour. I have a dog and everyone knows I need to let him during the noon hour, so no one said anything to me. I’m really, really reserved so I’m sure I didn’t add enough for anyone to notice.

  31. LogicalOne*

    For me, work holiday parties are like dates or being at an interview. Behave, never drink, reserve yourself from eating a lot, stay humble, don’t bring anyone that may cause drama or may be uncomfortable at a party where they don’t know anyone or just don’t bring anyone at all, stay a little while but not short enough to where people will question why you’re leaving early or if you attended at all.
    If you’re trying to move up in the company or try to paint yourself in a good light, just attend and suffer through whatever time you’re there. For me, enduring an hour or two of misery at a place I dont want to be one night a year for the bosses can translate to good opportunities and a prosperous future with my employer. People notice when you do and don’t attend gatherings or meetings. Or you know, just watch that episode of The Office in season 7 or 8 where Jim attempts to leave the company party early that was hosted by the then CEO, Robert California, at his place.

  32. AskAnEmployee*

    I’ve gotta disagree with Allison on #1. As a recovering alcy, the last thing I need to do is voluntarily spend additional time with coworkers outside of office hours. Holiday parties are just another way ladder climbers can show the man that they are willing to bend over and take it!

  33. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    NGL I cringed when I read the itemized receipt and saw what some folks were ordering for drinks this year.

    Just as a lowkey reminder that even if the higher ups aren’t policing what you’re ordering and are drinking along with you, some of us will see that you were indeed throwing back Long Islands! I was not expecting that but it made more sense why a couple people were way too loud for their own good. Nothing outrageous or career suffering but a cringe.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Most people are more fun at parties than at work parties. Work parties are not the time to get wasted.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      Yeah sometimes our faculty members will take guest speakers out to dinner and when they present their receipts for payment I’m shocked. Like who the hell did you take to dinner? Skid Row?

  34. Tim K*

    Are holiday parties typically so networking-focused? I’ve always worked at small outstations of a large parent company, so there’s none of that pressure at an event with ~50 coworkers who all know each other. But I’ve also been to holiday parties at the headquarters of my current company, and it’s never felt like anything other than a perk – an opportunity to have a good time on the company’s dime. There’s definitely shop talk, but that’s because most people in my industry are there because they’re just into it and enjoy talking about it.

    I enjoy holiday parties and I’m really looking forward to mine (we do it in January since everyone is too busy in December), but there’s no pressure over attending vs not, how long you stay for, who you talk to, how much you drink, etc. I feel like a company being weird about a holiday party would be a red flag for me, but I also wonder how much of it is people worrying over nothing in some situations?

  35. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    I agree with all of Alison’s rules, but I would put 8 and 9 in the 1 and 2 spots. Despite the fancier attire, the music and the booze, you are at work.

  36. AskAnEmployee*

    PRO LIFE TIP for getting out of all of your work parties and functions – tell your employer that you serve on the board of a fictitious non profit. Here’s how I have managed to miss every happy hour, holiday party, team birthday and the occasional Friday afternoon for the past two years:

    After being confronted by my boss and needing an excuse to miss the offsite Christmas party two years ago, I literally just blurted out that I had a “charity thing to do”. When pressed further, I quickly invented a small, obscure non profit with a generic name and let her know that I was a board member and we had a meeting the same night of the Christmas party. Long story short, I ended up making an organization website with Weebly and stock photos so that when people at work asked about it they could find it online. Here are a few tips if you choose to go down this path:

    1) Choose a cause that people won’t want to talk about like human trafficking or abused animals. This way you won’t get a million followup questions. Also, there’s less of a chance your colleagues or bosses will be inclined to try to get involved financially or otherwise if you choose a not-so-glamorous cause.
    2) Be as vague as possible when describing your role with “the organization”. Redirect questions by stating how rewarding your “volunteer job” is.
    3) Google what non profit boards do so that you can describe “your leadership duties” to your coworkers when necessary.

    My “board of directors role” has allowed me to miss every single social event for the past few years. As a bonus, my boss lets me leave early on Friday once a quarter because of the “board meeting”. A completely unintended benefit of this endeavor is the tact that I was promoted to a team lead/management trainee role within the company because of the “leadership” experience I get from the non profit.

    1. Close Bracket*

      As a bonus, my boss lets me leave early on Friday once a quarter because of the “board meeting”. A completely unintended benefit of this endeavor is the tact that I was promoted to a team lead/management trainee role within the company because of the “leadership” experience I get from the non profit.

      So you get perks and advancement opportunities based on a lie. That is unethical.

      1. AskAnEmployee*

        I’ve come to accept that my moral compass occasionally points South. Besides, it’s not like I’m collecting money from people for this thing. Once I land a new job somewhere else, I’ll probably nix this whole thing anyway.

    2. H.C.*

      Long story short, I ended up making an organization website with Weebly and stock photos so that when people at work asked about it they could find it online.

      How Jukt Micronics of you – and agree with Close Bracket that it crosses the line from questionable to unethical when you start getting perks (extra time off & additional consideration for raises/promotions) from this.

    3. annakarina1*

      If this post is real and not a satirical joke, this sounds like this lie would get caught if you end up being introduced to a board member who serves on a non-profit that has the same mission and asks more questions about this place. This sounds really unethical, and would just make you look untrustworthy if it comes out that you made this up just to get out of parties, and possibly demoted or fired for this.

  37. Chocolate Teapot*

    It was my company’s “End of Year Party” last night. The event organising team did their best, but I know the budget they have is limited, and they try to organise a number of cheaper events through the year rather then one or two bigger ones. (Summer barbecue, Halloween breakfast etc.)

    So I arrived for an aperitif and the realisation that the crisp and peanut bowls were nearly empty. Going over to the table where the “Walking Dinner” was laid out I (and most of the other attendees) thought these were the canapes, but it turned out this was dinner. Fortunately the wine, beer and water kept flowing, and there was coffee at the end for anyone who wanted it.

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