Success at Holiday Parties

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A Primer

At the last really huge corporate Holiday Party I attended, a young woman who reported to me jumped up on stage just as the beginning drum beats to the classic “Love Shack” were filling the hall. The crowd went wild that someone would be so brave. I leaned over to my wife and mentioned with apprehension, “I hope this doesn’t go on her permanent record, or mine”. This was not the party at Fox TV or Vanity Fair or some hip record label. It was the big consulting firm Accenture, not known for its singers.

Although a little tipsy, turns out that girl could sing and dance and sing and dance she did. She knew all the words to “Love Shack” even down to that phrase yelled in the middle that many the drunken undergraduate has tried to figure out. I think it is “Tin Roof, Busted!” but I could be wrong on that. It was the highlight of the night at the party and turns out it did end up on her permanent record. She was no longer an anonymous analyst. Now everyone knew her name and she was sought for projects. The thinking might have been, anyone with that much moxie should be able to sell something.

See, Holiday Parties are not always the career killers they are reputed to be. There can be an upside, however rare. Since that Love Shack incident, my own parties have grown dull. Holiday parties are not as wild as they used to be but they are still fraught with stress about whether or not to go, with whom and what to wear, among other critical decisions. Given the time of year and given the fact that most of us do go to that party with optimism, here are some pointers to get the most out of that party.

Go. Yes, always go. Come, on. You have to go. Your co-workers want to see who you are dating or married to and what you think “festive holiday attire” is.

Don’t get drunk at the company holiday party. Repeat, don’t get drunk.*
*No matter how many times I have presented this advice, it is universally ignored. So I suggest adhering to the following advice assuming you will end up in that mind altered state…

Always have someone with you who will remember what you said at the Holiday Party so that you can make appropriate apologies when necessary.
Under all circumstances, when tipsy, stay away from your bosses spouse. You don’t want said spouse to ask later, “Who was that totally smashed person who said you were the besht bosh he ever had?”
Take a taxi home. Embarrassing yourself can be forgiven, being reckless cannot.

If you are the boss, give your toast and speech of thanks early. Before the audience or you have had too much to drink.
Stay away from any one with a video camera. You may think you are a good dancer but you might show up on YouTube next to the classic of Elaine from Seinfeld dancing at that party.
For that same YouTube reason, don’t wear any fancy clothes that can fall off and reveal something that might show up on an ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend web site.
Never sit with the company lawyers. They are never any fun at these events since they are focused on the liabilities of everything that is happening around them.
If the company is coming to the end of a really bad year, cut the management some slack for goldfish and beer instead of steak and wine. At least they are trying.
Do not sneak out into the hall to check your blackberry or PDA. Leave all blackberries and any thing that seems like work at home.
Remember that there will be no secrets. Anything that happens at the holiday party, does not stay at the holiday party. Whether it involves sex, drugs, facebook pages, rock and roll, annual reviews, wearing lampshades or obese dates; it will be on the web and message boards and other places on Monday.
Lastly, have fun. It is a time to get to know your co-workers in ways never imagined in cube land. It is a time for your date to see who you have praised or complained about all year. It is a time to relax and say, “I made it here for another year.” Congratulations.

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